Each morning I skim the headlines of The New York Times. In the evening, I usually watch both the local and national news. I often end up feeling very discouraged by stories about things that are damaging our planet or diminishing the lives of the people who live here.
But I do see glimmers of hope from companies that are doing good, purpose-driven work every single day. I recently attended the SHINE Summit sponsored by the Harvard School of Public Health. Here I heard inspiring stories from companies doing good things on many different fronts. One of the underlying themes these innovative organizations shared was a commitment to taking care of their employees. When businesses focus on connecting employees with the mission and purpose of the organization, they create people-centric workplaces where employees are engaged and excited. Smart business leaders know they can’t achieve their business objectives without engaged workers.
Why Do More Good?
The business world is recognizing that the short-term profit focus is no longer viable. On January 16, 2018, Larry Fink, CEO and Chairman of BlackRock, the $6T asset management company he founded, sent a letter to public company CEOs emphasizing the need for long-term strategy and clear understanding of the societal impact of their business. The “Larry Letter,” as it is now known, states, “To prosper over time, every company must not only deliver financial performance, but also show it makes a positive contribution to society.” The letter goes on to encourage businesses to have a sense of purpose. “Without a sense of purpose, no company, either public or private, can achieve its full potential.”
The Rise of Conscious Capitalism
The “Larry Letter” follows on the Conscious Capitalism movement that has been underway since the late 1990s. The movement picked up momentum in 2007 with the publication, Firms of Endearment and a white paper by Whole Foods CEO John Mackey titled “Conscious Capitalism: Creating a New Paradigm for Business.” In 2014, Mackey published the book Conscious Capitalism which included the following four principles:
- Higher Purpose - While making money is essential for the vitality and sustainability of a business, it is not the only or even the most important reason a business exists. Conscious Businesses focus on their purpose beyond profit.
- Stakeholder Orientation - Unlike some businesses that believe they only exist to maximize return on investment for their shareholders, Conscious Businesses focus on their whole business ecosystem, creating and optimizing value for all of their stakeholders, understanding that strong and engaged stakeholders lead to a healthy, sustainable, resilient business. They recognize that, without employees, customers, suppliers, funders, supportive communities and a life-sustaining ecosystem, there is no business.
- Conscious Leadership - Conscious Leaders focus on “we” rather than “me.” They inspire, foster transformation and bring out the best in those around them.
- Conscious Culture - Culture is the embodied values, principles and practices underlying the social fabric of a business, which permeate its actions and connects the stakeholders to each other and to the company’s purpose, people and processes.
Creating Conscious People-Centric Workplaces
There are many things that leaders and managers can do to create people-centric workplaces that will value people and encourage them to thrive.
- Higher Purpose - People are motivated by those things that give their life meaning. Link every job to the purpose of the organization and the good you are doing in the world.
- Stakeholder Orientation - Taking care of people is the foundation of doing good. Demonstrate a sense of responsibility and commitment to your people. This includes the basics, such as paying a living wage and creating a safe workplace, to the trust and respect you show your suppliers.
- Conscious Leadership - New skills such as compassion and empathy may be the key to embracing conscious leadership.
- Conscious Culture - Culture is rooted in values. These values make up the norms and behaviors that become the way you do business.
It is my hope that we can create a better world through the small things we do every day in every workplace and community. Then we will have a true force for good.