The basic premise of this new iteration of capitalism is that companies can do good for their employees, stakeholders, society, and the environment as a whole, without sacrificing profits in the process. It may sound like a pipe dream, yet more and more household-name companies are embracing the main principles of Conscious Capitalism in their business decisions and practices, many driven by the fact that companies practicing Conscious Capitalism have been reported to perform ten times better than those who don’t.
In this article, we’re going to look at the most successful examples of famous companies embracing Conscious Capitalism principles, shaping what the leaders of tomorrow might focus their business efforts and investment strategies on in the near future.
Key principles of conscious capitalism, according to John Mackey
The concept of Conscious Capitalism has been popularized by John Mackey, founder and co-CEO of Whole Foods, in his influential book Conscious Capitalism: Liberating the Heroic Spirit of Business. In the process of analyzing the trailblazing businesses that have managed to become incredibly successful while making the world a better place, he pins down the key principles of Conscious Capitalism under four pillars: higher purpose, stakeholder orientation, conscious leadership, and conscious culture.
In short, these pillars set out the basic principles of what Conscious Capitalism aims to achieve: namely, a greater purpose than profits, value creation for all business stakeholders (from investors to communities), socially responsible and inspirational leadership, and a company atmosphere that benefits and motivates everyone. Throughout his analysis, the forward-thinking CEO names several well-known companies, from Costco to The Container Store, have successfully maximized their profits and stock growth while upholding conscious capitalist values.
The bottom line is that being socially responsible and environmentally conscious not only feels good — it pays off, too! So, it doesn’t really come as a surprise that more and more businesses are rethinking their business philosophy to join the trend and solidify their positive impact on the world.
Top 5 Conscious Capitalism companies set on making an impact
With more Conscious Leaders realizing that capitalism can be a driving force of both economic and social good, businesses are starting to prove to the world that a higher purpose is within reach (and that capitalism doesn’t have to be synonymous with ruthless exploitation, either).
Here are the top 5 companies that are walking the walk toward a more sustainable future for all of us.
Whole Foods Market
John Mackey’s very own brainchild, Whole Foods Market, is naturally one of the best examples of Conscious Capitalism in practice.
One of the most shining instances of the company’s social responsibility at work is the way its employees are cared for. Whole Foods’ employees are not formally unionized as their voices are already heard, their needs are taken care of, and their salaries are subjected to a cap aiming to promote more widespread equality: no worker, regardless of position, can be paid more than 19 times the average salary of all the employees of the company. Whole Foods was also built on the idea of a higher purpose from the very beginning: to
Help people live healthier, longer lives by introducing healthy, organic alternatives into the mainstream world
The company prides itself on valuing all stakeholders equally, not just shareholders looking for quick profits at the expense of long-term social innovation.
Not only has Starbucks managed to expand coffeehouse culture beyond what anyone thought possible, but it has also cultivated a strong eco-friendly conscious culture, way before it became a trend.
The company’s environmental and social efforts have revolved around reducing waste and giving back to the community in a way that stimulates long-term carbon offsetting. From providing paper cups made from recycled paper to donating all unsold food to local food banks, Starbucks has proven time and time again that green practices don’t have to come with a hefty price tag. When it comes to its employees, this conscious company is also well-known for offering real living wages, giving more generous benefits than 99% of industry competitors, and providing full training and upward mobility.
Southwest Airlines is the perfect example of a company that has fully embedded Conscious Capitalism practices in its business strategy, thanks to the incorporation of a “triple bottom line” approach.
This approach goes beyond simply accounting for financial profits and losses, taking into account social and environmental costs as if they were traditional markers of profit. This shift in business practice has resulted in effective environmental initiatives, like the introduction of sustainable materials for their aircraft, fuel efficiency caps, and the donation of all leather materials to non-profit initiatives. These efforts are proven even more extraordinary by the fact that the airline industry has always been notorious for its disregard of environmental concerns. This airline company is going way beyond what’s expected and effectively tackling the industry’s infamous role in climate change, virtually offsetting the environmental cost of their operations. Eco-consciousness aside, the business has also cultivated an employee-friendly atmosphere that makes all stakeholders feel valued and essential to the organization’s success. In the words of the airline’s CEO: “Among employees, shareholders, and customers, we decided that our internal customers — our employees — came first.”
The principle behind this philosophy is quite simple: When all employees are treated the same regardless of their title or position, they will, in turn, treat each other and their customers in a warm and caring way, driving customer retention and shareholders’ satisfaction with the business.
Trader Joe’s is another forward-thinking grocery chain that has been championing Conscious Capitalism long before the concept even had a name.
The company honed a deep sense of purpose from the very start, only concentrating on what was best for the long-term benefit of all stakeholders, even when short-term gains were the most attractive option to drive the retailer’s ambitious expansion. Reducing food waste and combating food insecurity is at the top of the business’ priorities: Trader Joe’s long-running food donation programs deliver products not suitable for sale but safe for consumption to local communities, while designated donor coordinators are responsible for working with local food banks and soup kitchens on a daily basis. On top of these community-building efforts, the company also prides itself on only stocking its shelves with eco-friendly, sustainable foods — available to customers with an accessible price tag.
Google wouldn’t be what it is today without its core purpose: to make information readily available, open, and accessible to everyone.
In order to achieve their goal, the company’s business leaders have created a now-iconic company culture focused on creativity, individuality, empowerment, and philanthropic responsibility. The tech giant has funded plenty of non-profit projects throughout the years, including the BRAID (Building, Recruiting, And Inclusion for Diversity) initiative to increase the number of women and people of color majoring in computer science and Code for America, a project connecting America’s job seekers with training and job search support to fight poverty. These efforts are a great example of how incorporating Conscious Capitalism policies can benefit communities and businesses at the same time: The long-term support of inclusive college education and job opportunities can help struggling communities succeed while guaranteeing a return of investment in the form of motivated, passionate employees joining the industry.
Leadership with a purpose
The rise of Conscious Capitalism is a rare, inspirational story of two opposite worlds colliding together to make our lives better and our future truly sustainable. As more businesses and organizations join the Conscious Revolution to distinguish themselves from the competition and attract sustainability-minded shareholders, it’s not unfeasible to think that Conscious Capitalist business will become the default (and not the exception!) to the market rule.
It’s clear that the future of socially responsible business is brimming with possibilities and the market is demanding more conscious leaders to take charge. Nowhere is it more apparent that these opportunities present themselves than to women with the courage to lead differently and the insight to develop their skills in emotional intelligence, influence and executive presence.
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