The Rise of Conscious Capitalism

"Business is a fact of life. We have to trade. We have to have an economy...but what does a healthy economic system look like?"

I've been noticing a lot of these Free Libraries lately. I've seen most of them by the beaches. Each time I come across one, I always check to see what kind of books people leave behind. Most times, it's children's books, but on occassion, I do see a few interesting ones. I've never actually "borrowed" from these kinds of libraries before until now. I picked up this book called "Megatrends 2010: The Rise of Conscious Capitalism." To be upfront, the book caught my attention because of the Megatrends title, not the rest of it. I was wondering how right the author 7 years later. I didn't realize the second part of the title which if you've been reading and following some of my posts was absolutely right up my alley. It's amazing how the universe works to bring you what you want and need.

I've been struggling with the tenets of minimalism, zero waste and conscious capitalism for some time now. Not the practicalities of it, though I have my moments, but the idealism of it. We don't live in a perfect world. We don't live in a circular economy. The term "conscious capitalism" feels like an oxymoron. We live in a very capitalistic society that uses the GDP as the factor for measuring our economic growth. GDP means the creation and consumption of things. How can we be conscious about that and is that something that we can change?

I'm going to slightly ruin the suspense of finding what the MegaTrends are by listing the 7 New Trends that Aburdene covers in this book. As I am reading this in 2017, I find all of the content is still highly relevant and there continues to be lots of room for growth and change.

This book gave me hope that one can live a life of meaning in a world that runs on capitalism. 


The Power of Spirituality - from Personal to Organizational

Aburdene observes and argues that our personal and spiritual values do not have to be set aside when we enter the business world. In fact, it's critical that we carry on those values and observe how our actions influence others. Of course this is easier said than done as the corporate world has a different set of rules and values, but I think in this day and age, we now see many people bringing spirituality into the workplace.

In 2012, I accepted a position at a newly hatched adtech company. It had the shine of open collaborative work spaces, minimalistic design and lots of young and hip people. One of the things that stood out to me about that company was the VP of HR. She had a very hippie vibe about her. She was positive, always smiling and she brought to the company the idea of spirituality. Don't get me wrong, she was professional as could be, but she had a different attitude towards how to motivate and coach people to do the work that they needed to do. For me, it was the first time I saw meditation, essentials oils, massages, yoga stretches and sharing sessions being part of the company culture. In part, she brought a lot of humanity to the the workplace. I was sad to see her go as she went on to pursue other dreams and goals. Some of the initiatives she started did not continue partly because there was no one there championing the organizational spirit. The company went on to thrive for a few years, but I wonder how much more of an impact it could have had had we continued on a path that incorporated a lot of the spiritual and personal values she touted.


The Dawn of Conscious Capitalism

Top companies are leading and re-inventing free enterprise by creating businesses that make the world a better place while earning profits. Therein lies the very definition of conscious capitalism. Making money without destroying everything in it's path.  "Do well AND do good!" Is it all 100% roses, no, but the point is that there's a movement towards building businesses that take into account personal values and the desire to do meaningful work while being good to people and reducing environmental impact. 

Today, I'm certainly seeing conscious capitalism increasing as companies focus on integrity, transparency, enlightened governance as well as higher social and environmental standards. Companies are taking their values to the boardroom and embracing Conscious Capitalism standards. Here are the 10 Principles conscious companies are accepting.

  1. Protection of the Biosphere
  2. Sustainable Use of Natural Resources
  3. Reduction and disposable of waste
  4. Energy Conservation
  5. Risk Reduction
  6. Safe Products and Services
  7. Environmental Restoration
  8. Informing the Public
  9. Management Committee
  10. Audits and Reports

Of course my observation is a lot of these companies are following these principles, but perhaps not to the degree that we wish they did. I still see lots of examples of companies not doing enough to Protect the Biosphere or Inform the Public of potential harmful products. It sounds well and good that these principles exist as a guide, but we need to hold more companies to a higher standards and increase the threshold of what we will accept a conscious company does. 


Leading from the Middle

Leadership for change doesn't come from the top. In fact, there are many middle line managers making the change and incorporating their personal values into the way they do in business and encouraging teams to perform.

It's interesting to note that a lot of company transformations do not happen because of the CEO. In fact, in majority of the cases, someone somewhere in the middle of the chain decides to live their values and strives to carry that on to their work and influence others in the process.  

This to me is promising because it means that all of us have the power to create change and have an impact. What are some things you can do? Well, here are some examples from the book.

  • Start a corporate meditation class.
  • Install a hotline for ethical violations.
  • Institute a moment of silence in meetings.
  • Launch a corporate book club.
  • Speak out at a meeting.
  • Grant an award.
  • Sponsor an event.
  • Get others to volunteer with you for a cause.
  • Hosts workshops.
  • Cut costs, not services.

I think the key in the end is to come from an authentic place as this will ultimately help you to influence others to help and support you and your initiatives.


Spirituality in Business

"Most of us spend so much time working, it would be a shame if we couldn't find God there."

Do you agree with this statement? I personally have been struggling to find that balance of being able to express my values in the place where I spend most of my days. It's shocking to me that as most Americans spend majority of their waking life at work that we have not created a more inclusive, non-denominational way of being spiritual at work. 

As with many people, I strive to find meaning in the work that I do. I don't just want to be at a place for a paycheck. Where is the good in that? How can I fulfill my personal spirit if I'm just there for a check? 

I think it's important for businesses to strive to incorporate some spirituality in the way they run their operations, treat their employees and go about their businesses. Spirituality can provide a way to address and change the meaning of work, it can provide a respite from potential burnout, it can reduce workplace violence and overall create an atmosphere of good, productive work. 


The Values Driven Consumer

Consumers are leaving the mass market in search of products, companies and services that are aligned with their own values and ideals. We all know that each time we buy something, we vote for the kind of world we want to live in. Lately, there's been a strong surge in the Conscious Consumer who are voting their pocketbooks. This means that consumers who are taking their time to research, plan and support companies that are doing good are as powerful as investors in transforming capitalism. We all will spend money. We all will need to buy something. The best thing we can do is to really think about our decisions to consume and make choices that coincide with the values that we have instilled within ourselves. 

The Conscious Consumer by definition runs through a series of questions when making a purchase. You've probably seen Maslow's Hiearchy of Needs, well a similar one exists for conscious consumption.

  1. Do I really need this?
  2. Can I reuse, barter for, make or borrow it instead?
  3. Is this purchase aligned with my values?



There are more and more people out there moving away from mass consumption. What this means is the opportunity to capture consumers that are more thoughtful about how and what they purchase. Yes, this is still consumption, but with more heart. 


The Wave of Conscious Solutions

I've had a chance to see a lot of good people creating amazing solutions that are inline with their values and doing more good in the process. It's amazing to see people embody their values and that resulting in success. 

"We're giving people hope - the hope to find meaning and not to compartmentalize their lives into home and work and self. We're inviting people to ask questions. Why am I here? What is my contribution? How can the work I'm doing and the service I'm providing bring for the best I can be in every moment? People really want to be accountable, they want to take responsibility, they want to feel that they are doing is being counted as contributing to the success of the organization."


The Socially Responsible Investment Boom 

I wrote a post a few months ago about How Zero Waste is Not Possible, but we should try anyways and I always come back to this idea of hypocrisy in the things that we are doing in our daily lives and for our futures. For almost two years, I've written, practiced minimalism and zero waste and while there's been a lot of progress, there's still a lot of areas that I am grappling. Today, top of my mind is about investing. I am absolutely a big proponent of investing for security and for the future. One of the things that I am also taking a look at when it comes to investing is how to invest consciously. While reviewing my accounts, I saw a significant amount of investments in companies that seemed to be the opposite of what I believed in. Companies that were making amazing profits and returns, but sacrificing the environment. So with this knowledge, I've been slowly learning and transitioning to invest in companies that are being socially responsible. Read more about Social Responsible Investing here. 

I'm glad to know that there are ways to change the way companies are run. As a shareholder, we have the power to be activists. One of the changes I've made was to invest more in companies doing sustainable energy. 

"The idea of making as much money as you can, any way you want it, then giving it to charity of your choice. It's like earning money on tobacco stocks all day, then giving to the American Cancer Society at night." 


I hope that we can all learn from the rise of conscious capitalism and that we all have the power to bring heart and values to all of the things that we are working on. We're humans that need to find meaning. Maslow indicated that our last need is self-actualization - finding our full potential in what we do. 


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