What do we mean by a Conscious Business?

Business is based on cooperation and voluntary exchange. No one is forced to trade with a business. Customers have competitive alternatives in the marketplace, team members have competitive alternatives for their labor, investors have numerous alternatives to invest their capital, and suppliers have plenty of alternative customers for their products and services. All stakeholders need to cooperate to create value for customers. Business is a win win win game. Voluntary exchange for mutual benefit has led to unprecedented prosperity for humanity.“

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For years, I’ve taken a rather critical view towards most businesses. Before choosing to belong to any stakeholder group – be it a customer, employee, investor or member of a community – I make sure that I can identify to the higher purpose, values and corporate culture of the company. Having worked in two listed companies, I came to a conclusion that corporations exist purely to maximize profit, not to increase human wellbeing – which I as an entrepreneur would primarily seek for. I then worked for a start-up, which ultimate purpose indeed was not primarily to maximize profit, but:

Our mission is to democratize mushrooms. We see immunological issues ‘along with hormonal and digestive problems’ as the key thing to solve in order to help people live healthier.” Four Sigma Foods

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Generating profit is a secondary yet important purpose for the company. Conscious businesses strive to create value for its all stakeholders simultaneously. For me, this is the only right way to do business. I later gained greater understanding and interest towards public companies and the (positive) impact they have potential to make. While living in New York and working for this start-up mentioned earlier (this was Summer 2013), I found myself from The Whole Foods Market every day. I was truly inspired by their products and the vibes I got from this organic grocery store chain. I was a happy everyday customer, happy to pay a premium of better-than-average quality products and I immediately decided that one day I want to work for this company. Further, everyone I spoke with in New York seemed to love Whole Foods too and indeed did their groceries in this chain. All this inspired me to do some research on the company. What was the ideology behind the business model? I wanted to learn more of the founders of the company, which is how a found a true inspirer and business mentor for myself – the co-founder of Whole Foods Market and co-author of Conscious Capitalism, John Mackey.

Following is mostly derived from Conscious Capitalism, written by John Mackey and Raj Sisodia. As said, Mackey is the co-founder and co-CEO of Whole Foods Market. He has led the natural and organic grocer as it has grown into a Fortune 300 company with a market capitalisation of over $20 billion. A strong believer in free-market principles, Mackey cofounded the conscious capitalism movement. He aims to defend and reimagine capitalism and encourage a way of doing business that is grounded in ethical consciousness. Mackey cut his pay to $1 in 2006 and continues to work for Whole Foods Market out of a passion to see the business realise its potential for deeper purpose, for the joy of leading a great company and to answer the call to service he feels in his heart.

I just finished the book and cannot appraise it enough. This book is my business philosophy written in words. I feel so grateful to have found a true inspiration and business bible for myself. John Mackey, you have found a Conscious Capitalism ambassador from Finland 😉 I will reflect my thoughts based on the themes of this book, starting with this post.

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“Business plays a central role in our lives. We are affected more by businesses than by any other social institutions. Most of us earn our livelihood and provide for our families by working for companies, and all of us purchase the goods and services from companies that we choose to for a reason of other be superior to their competitors. The quality of our lives, our health, our overall well-being and even our happiness depend greatly on the ways in which businesses operate. Business is fundamentally about people working together cooperatively to create value for other people. It is the greatest creator of value in the world. This is what makes business ethical and what makes it beautiful. Business is fundamentally good. It becomes even better when it is more fully conscious of its inherent higher purposes and extraordinary potential for value creation. “

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Human beings are evolving rapidly, becoming more intelligent on multiple levels, being better informed, more closely connected, and more driven by higher-level aspirations and values. Both men and women are increasingly integrating masculine and feminine sides of our personae. We are becoming more conscious: evolving ethically, taking responsibility for more of the consequences of our actions, and better understanding interdependencies of larger systems.

Conscious businesses have powerful positive impacts on the world. Their higher purpose enables them to harness for the greater good. Extraordinary level of team member commitment results when intense personal passions align with corporate purposes. Consciousness enables them to see the interdependencies across all stakeholders and to realize synergies that otherwise might seem like trade-offs between different stakeholder groups. They create lasting and inspiring, engaging cultures that enable the business to continue operating in a conscious way even after their founders pass from the stage. Their leaders consciously build the culture to be self-organizing, self-motivating, self-managing and self-evolving.

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We are in the midst of a historic transition; it is clear that the existing paradigms no longer work well. People’s minds are open to new possibilities, exciting opportunities and great challenges. Visionary thought and bold action is needed. We need to critically rethink of our mental models, assumptions, and theories and question their accuracy and relevance. We have an invaluable opportunity today to fundamentally change the course for our future, as the resistance to change in society at the moment appear to be lower than it has been in a long time.

The transition is gathering some momentum. Many current leaders and established companies are responding to the philosophy of conscious capitalism and taking steps in this direction. Mackey and Sisodia believe that the millennial generation (born between 1980 and 2000) will be the primary creators of change. “Millenials view work as a key part of life, not a separate activity that needs to be balanced by it…They want to work to afford them the opportunity to make new friends, learn new skills, and connect to a larger purpose. That sense of purpose is a key factor in their job satisfaction; according to our research, they are the most socially conscious generation since the 1960s.” (Meister & Willyerd)

Aim of conscious capitalism movement is simple: “One day, virtually every business will operate with a sense of higher purpose, integrate interests of all stakeholders, develop and elevate conscious leaders and build a culture of trust, accountability and caring.” (Mackey & Sisodia)

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Conscious capitalism is a dynamic definition that will continue to evolve as our consciousness grows and collective wisdom of business leaders and thinkers enriches it. It will become the dominant business paradigm for a simple reason: it is simply a better way to do business. Over the long term, it will outcompete other business philosophies. Since conscious companies win in the marketplace, their approaches will be copied over time. When most businesses operate in this way, humanity and our planet will flourish. Many existing companies such as Southwest Airlines, Google, Costco, UPS, Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods Market have already shown that conscious way of doing business leads to a multifaceted success over time.

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We humans are capable of extraordinary things. Think of all our astonishing accomplishments in just the last two hundred years. We have tunneled through mountains, built buildings stretching thousands of feet into the heavens, sent and safely brought back humans from the moon, put satellites and space stations. We think nothing of putting hundreds of people in aluminum tubes and flying them around the world at astounding speeds thousands of kilometres above the ground. We have created communication systems that can connect us to the remotest locations, to deepest jungle to tallest mountains. These are inventions by ordinary mortals, made in an incredibly short amount of time.

Where each of us could be joyously creating, most choose to settle. “People are settling every day into okay relationships and okay jobs and an okay life. And you know why? Because okay is comfortable. Okay pays the bills and gives a warm bed at night and allows one to go out with co-workers on a Friday evening to enjoy happy hour. But you know what okay is not? Okay isn’t thrilling, it isn’t passion, it isn’t the reason you get up every day; it isn’t life-changing or unforgettable. Okay is not the reason you go to bed late and wake up early. Okay is not the reason you risk absolutely everything you’ve got just for the smallest chance that something absolutely amazing could happen.” (Anonymous) Where we could experience the thrill of discovery, we settle for mindless routine. Where we could live each day suffused in love and fulfillment, we allow ourselves to be imprisoned by our own fear-based thoughts and actions.

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Unconscious businesses focus on creating as much financial wealth for their investors as possible. Leaders proclaim proudly that their focus is profit maximization. This sends a loud and unmistakable message to everyone the organization touches: they too must focus on maximizing their own profits. Team members decide to give as little and take as much as possible. Suppliers try to squeeze and cut corners where they can so that they can maximize their own profits. Governments and local communities think about how they can extract as much out of the business as possible. Customers feel no hesitation in taking advantage of the company whenever they can. Everyone becomes a taker and not a giver to the system. This erodes and eventually destroys a company’s ability to achieve its profit goals because the self-serving impulse becomes rampant throughout the system. It damages everyone’s ability to create value for each other and through that, value and fulfillment for themselves.

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A conscious business aspires to create financial, intellectual, social, cultural, emotional, spiritual, physical and ecological wealth for all its major stakeholders: team members, customers, investors, suppliers and communities. It is said that those of us alive today truly have the opportunity to live the most meaningful lives human beings have collectively ever led (Twist, 2005). Our challenges have never been greater, but similarly our consciousness and deep understanding of them. We have all the tools and technologies we need to solve virtually every one of our challenges and we have the capacity and creativity to invent anything that we need but do not yet have. If we can utilize the energy in each of us and channel it through creative organizational forms, we can and will eradicate poverty in this century, create a more peaceful planetrestore and replenish our environment and threatened species, eliminate most major diseases and enable all humans to lead long, healthy, vibrant, productive and meaningful lives.

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Conscious Capitalism State of Belief:

We believe that business is good because it creates value, it is ethical because it is based on voluntary exchange, it is noble because it lifts people out of poverty and creates prosperity. Free-enterprise capitalism is the most powerful system for social cooperation and human progress ever conceived. But we can aspire to something even greater. Conscious capitalism is a way of thinking about capitalism and business that better reflects where we are in the human journey, the state of our world today and the innate potential of business to have a positive impact on the world. Conscious businesses are galvanized by higher purposes that serve, align and integrate the interests of all their major stakeholders. Their higher state of consciousness enables them to see the interdepencies that exist among all their stakeholders, and this, in turn, allows them to discover and harvest synergies from situations that otherwise seem burdened with trade-offs. Conscious businesses have conscious leaders who are driven by dedication to the company’s purpose, to all the people the business touches, and to planet we all share. They have trusting, authentic, innovative and caring cultures that make working with them a source of both personal growth and professional fulfilment. They endeavour to create financial, intellectual, social, cultural, emotional, spiritual, physical, and ecological wealth for all their stakeholders. Conscious businesses can help evolve our world in such a way that billions of people can flourish, leading lives infused with passion, purpose, love and creativity – a world of freedom, harmony, prosperity and compassion. Shift to become a conscious business calls for vision, purpose, courage and determination. The journey is joyful but not easy. (Mackey & Sisodia)

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The pics I chose does not exactly relate to conscious business in its true meaning, however, for me they reflect some of the important features of consciousness: authenticity, passion, care for people, society and the planet. Openness for the possibilities this world has to offer for the curious individuals.  

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Oh, how many good memories arise browsing these pictures. Missing my partner in crime in particular. She is in Tokyo right now, organising Slush Asia, an event bringing together people with big dreams and the determination to make them a reality. That’s my girl 😉

Story to be continued.

xxx, S

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