Can you really say conscious capitalism together in the same sentence? Can you say that with a straight face? Or is this an oxymoron where these words are just plain contradictory?
I think we can have both. I believe we can have conscious businesses (also coined “enlightened businesses”) that are socially aware, motivated, and acting upon their beliefs. It is a new paradigm where instead of being mutually exclusive (“I want to make as much money as I can, for ME!”) it is working in a spirit of cooperation and a spirit of community (“How can I help YOU reach all your needs? Because in doing so, I shall reach mine”). I believe you can have conscious capitalism.
There is nothing wrong with making money – every business has to or they would not stay in business for long.
Lately however we hear about the term more frequently in the news and print, how there is a growing list of companies that are taking up the mantle of social activism and yet still are able to be successful business operations at the same time. And yet some companies have been successful at this for a long time.
One of the more well known examples is the company Me to We (www.metowe.com) founded by Craig Kielburger and his brother Marc. This company donates half their profits to the Free the Children Foundation. All their social media is focused on that task. And they do very well. Me to We is a story of two extraordinary young men who began this mission as children, and they have sparked a fire in tens of thousands of people around the world. This company focuses its efforts on the one foundation, but that foundation supports multiple projects around the world.
The Body Shop has long been active in the community since 1989, creating its own foundation that supports initiatives around the world (www.thebodyshop.com). This has been part of their mission from the very beginnings of the company. Typically the majority of charities and groups they fund have been nominated by one of their employees or partners around the world. The rest are decided by committee.
Creo Mundi is another example of one of the newer companies practicing conscious capitalism (www.creomundi.com). Still a relatively young company, Creo Mundi (Latin for “Create” your “Universe”) is a story of two women producing intentional products (products with a positive message – typically embedded via one form or another). These include shirts with over 200 positive words in 15 world languages printed inside the shirts. Creo Mundi donates a minimum 10% all year round to charities, and twice a year (or more often as the demand calls) runs Community Fundraisers where 50% of profits are donated to charities across North America through their Just One Shirt campaign. This is an example where the company allows the consumer to direct where the share of charity dollars is to go.
The new conscious capitalism is becoming so popular PBS has even created a game called “The New Heroes” to see if you have what it takes to build a socially conscious business – http://www.pbs.org/opb/thenewheroes/engage/business.html .
So what are the attributes of companies practicing conscious capitalism?
I’m not sure if these have been formally identified, but there are certain attributes I believe that are common to these companies. They include:
- The company has a formal policy of fair trade at all levels in the organization.
- This begins with the manufacture of your products – who makes them? What are the working conditions like? Is child labour used? Or slave labour? Are workers paid a fair wage?
- And continues with employees who typically receive better compensation than most companies, and have greater opportunity to have their voice heard
- The company produces products that are already part of your daily life. They are not producing extravagant, unnecessary products. Salad dressing is an example of this. Tee shirts are another. And typically these products are not more expensive than “non conscious businesses”.
- The company clearly has a spirit of community in one form or another –whether on a website page (typically), through social media sites (e.g., fan pages on Facebook, or Twitter) or in their literature. You know what organizations they support – or even whether they allow you to direct the donation. And they are transparent about how much they are donating – is it 10%? 50%?
- These companies educate – they want you the consumer to be more consciously aware of the choices you make each and every day. They want you to think about the clothes on your back and where they came from. They want you to think about the food you consume and where IT came from. They want you to learn about the organizations they support, so that hopefully you will support them too. And they do this without making you feel bad about yourself.
- The company incorporates sustainable environmental practices – whether it is in the form of their products (e.g., bamboo tees) or paying a carbon tax to reduce their carbon footprint – these companies are more aware of their impact on the planet and try to minimize that impact.
So tell me, are you practicing conscious consumerism? Are you making the choice to engage with companies that practice conscious capitalism? Are you finding yourself more aware of where your products are coming from and what impact you/they are having on the planet? Comment in the blog comments, and we’ll see what people are doing.
Creo Mundi Inc.
All Natural Creo Mundi Intentional Protein ¾in TIME magazine March/April 2009 and voted Fan Favourite on The Dragons’ Den season 3 (episode 8)! Available in Loblaw Company stores (in the Natural Value Section) across Canada; working on getting this into the US… ask your local stores to carry us!