The traditional workweek has a way of starting on Monday morning and continuing for the next five days (at the least), dawn until dusk (at the least), without a single breath of fresh air in between (at the most). The danger: Weeks blend together, and instead of work driving productivity, it becomes a continuous to-do list.
To combat this inefficiency, several leading companies – including Trader Joe’s, Starbucks, The Container Store, and more – are practicing a new management approach: Conscious Capitalism, which challenges the traditional workweek in significant ways.
As the site declares, “‘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 make a positive impact on the world…Conscious businesses have trusting, authentic, innovative and caring cultures that make working there a source of both personal growth and professional fulfillment.”
In practice, CEOs and their teams—large, small, local, or globally-distributed—shift the way they think about their work. They seek to become more intentional in everything they do – during and outside of work. It asks companies to infuse the workweek with less delivery and more meaningful dialogue.
As quoted in Inc.’s recent article, Melissa Reiff, CEO of The Container Store states, “We continuously strive to create a better, more innovative and compelling place to shop and to work, for the near and long term success of our company. That includes a relentless focus on doing what’s right for ALL of our stakeholders by operating our business through the lens of our Foundation Principles and a commitment to conscious leadership…” She further explains how one of those principles, “Communication is Leadership” plays out each day at work: “nothing makes someone feel more a part of a team than knowing everything has been communicated to them.”
The process sounds New Age. But Conscious Capitalism claims to be, “more practical and comprehensive than other corporate philosophies that are based on virtuous behaviour and philanthropy,” as reported in an early profile of Conscious Capitalism in Ivey Business Journal.
The four principles of a conscious business—purpose, stakeholder interdependence, conscious leadership, and conscious culture—force all levels in the workplace to think about how they are working, rather than what they’re producing. These companies commit to seeking a higher purpose than monetary profit. They engage stakeholders in healthy, sustainable, business relationships; elect strong leadership, which fosters transformative opportunities for the whole team (“we” not “me”); and most importantly, cultivate a culture founded on trust, creativity, love, energy and self-motivation.
And it’s not just employees who benefit. Based on key findings from the 2015 Cone Communications Ebiquity Global CSR Study, the conscious company model is not only attractive, but expected by consumers:
- 91% of global consumers expect companies to do more than make a profit, but also operate responsibly to address social and environmental issues
- 84% say they seek out responsible products whenever possible
- 90% would boycott a company if they learned of irresponsible or deceptive business practices
But can this approach translate to an improved bottom line? Indeed, these statistics can be further confirmed in the returns on profits and sustainability that some of these conscious businesses have demonstrated.
In Minute Hack’s “The Benefits of Conscious Capitalism,” Raj Sisodia, co-founder of Conscious Capitalism Institute, states: “Through rigorous research of companies like Southwest Airlines, Starbucks and Whole Foods, Raj found that over a 15-year period, conscious capitalist companies had investment returns of 1646%, whereas the S&P 500 companies did 157% over the same time frame.”
“Businesses that subscribe to this idea would choose to reduce the disparity in wages between their managements and employees, be more environment-friendly, and charge fairer prices,” reports CuriosityStream in reference to their 2016 original documentary, Conscious Capitalism. “Thus, they build sustainability by gaining the trust of consumers and the community.”
Indeed, an interesting case study in how Conscious Capitalism survives in the face of other business trends may come in Whole Foods Market.
Conscious Capitalism advocates may agree that adhering to all four principles all the time is not simple. However, for companies that have put the conscious business values into practice in an intentional and sustainable way, benefits for staff, community, and stakeholders have been palpable.