I stumbled onto the concept of Conscious Capitalism when I attended a Local First AZ event in Tucson in a few months ago. Since then, I have had the opportunity to clarify my higher purpose (to inspire people to take more creative risks that matter), meet dozens of conscious capitalists from around the world, and capture many, many big ideas as visual notes. I have to admit that I am a bit skeptical of anything with the word "capitalism" in it because I spent so many years teaching about the damage that big business has done to people and the planet. However, after attending the three-day conference and a couple of evening events in Phoenix, I think these capitalists are on a different path. I really do.
First, many of these people introduce themselves by starting a conversation about their passions, such as plant-based foods, sustainable banking, or teaching organizations to think consciously, rather than trying to sell you their product. Second, it feels like they put relationships first and their egos second. Nearly everyone I have met at the local chapter meetings and the national conference is so excited about the future of business - of elevating individuals, communities, and supporting the environment in some way - that the conversations flow really easily. Third, the process of defining a company's higher purpose and building a culture to support it is not an easy or quick task - so they are hard workers who are in it for the long haul.
If you're intrigued by the idea of Conscious Capitalism, you should check out three things:
I was invited to draw for the Conscious Capitalism Stakeholder Event in Phoenix in May. Ten Conscious Capitalists from around Arizona shared five-minute stories of building connections among businesses, universities, suppliers, customers, and neighbors. Some stories were funny and others were heart wrenching, but all were worthwhile! Each of the talks was too short to capture completely, but these highlights show the network of businesses that make up Conscious Capitalism AZ.
I attended a Local First AZ workshop last week in Tucson that was partially an excuse to drive deep into the Sonoran Desert during wildflower season and partially a great opportunity to meet local business people. Who knew that sitting in a furniture showroom for two hours with strangers could change my perspective on capitalism? Let me explain...
The event was focused on Conscious Capitalism, which is a business philosophy that was articulated by John Mackey (the founder of Whole Foods Market) and Raj Sisodia in a book of the same name. In my words, Conscious Capitalism is the idea that free trade is good for communities, individuals, and the planet when it exists to serve a higher purpose - such as helping people eat better foods or supporting local communities or making the world a more creative place - not just to make money for shareholders. Conscious Capitalism proposes that business should seek a higher purpose and consider how business decisions impact all STAKEholders (customers, employees, suppliers, shareholders, mama earth), NOT just corporate SHAREholders. The book is a quick and interesting read.
As an entrepreneur with a background in ecology and 10+ years teaching university students about sustainability, Conscious Capitalism seems like the kind of business philosophy that I would have taught if it had occurred to me to teach about business at the university (maybe I'll go back and do that in a few years :). While I had not articulated a clear philosophy for my business, I find myself moving towards more conscious business decisions as I become more profitable. I'm giving away my time through the Contagious Creativity Awards. I try to treat my best customers like dear friends. I use the most environmentally- and human-friendly markers that I can find (refillable Neuland markers) and draw on recyclable surfaces whenever possible.
I am planning to attend several Conscious Capitalism meetings in Arizona over the next month and I look forward to learning more! If you are curious about this philosophy - and the people who are turning it into a movement - you can watch this TEDx talk by Adam Goodman and attend the international conference in Phoenix at the end of April.
Angie B. Moline
Dr. Moline is an ecologist and visual process facilitator who draws pictures to help clients think. She is currently on a quest to understand why live drawings are so compelling and how to make them as sticky as possible in order to improve communication, understanding, and memory. Follow here journey here!