Author: Tony Schwartz
Capitalism is associated with individualism, personal ambition, the accumulation of wealth and power, and an identity grounded in external accomplishment. The word conscious, or more specifically consciousness, is associated with self-awareness, personal development, the greater good, and a worldview that eschews competition, hierarchy, and materialism.
The thesis of conscious capitalism — outlined in a new book of the same title by John Mackey, founder and co-CEO of Whole Foods, and his thought partner, Raj Sisodia, a business professor — is that capitalism can be a force both for economic and social good. Or as Bill George, former CEO of Medtronics, puts it in the book’s introduction: “Well run, values-centered businesses can contribute to humankind in more tangible ways than any other organization in society.”
Raj Sisodia looked at 28 companies he identified as the most conscious — “firms of endearment” as he terms them — based on characteristics such as their stated purpose, generosity of compensation, quality of customer service, investment in their communities, and impact on the environment.
The 18 publicly traded companies out of the 28 outperformed the S&P 500 index by a factor of 10.5 over the years 1996-2011. And why, in the end, should that be a surprise? Conscious companies treat their stakeholders better. As a consequence, their suppliers are happier to do business with them. Employees are more engaged, productive, and likely to stay. These companies are more welcome in their communities and their customers are more satisfied and loyal. The most conscious companies give more, and they get more in return. The inescapable conclusion: it pays to care, widely and deeply.