How 2020 might be a Turning Point for Capitalism? How can we play a part in accelerating the shift to a more Conscious Capitalism here in Australia & NZ? And what next?
As things settled and we looked at starting to rebuild for a post-COVID world, Conscious Capitalism Australia & NZ Members came together to reflect on the present moment. Conversation was rich, and despite the challenges ahead, full of possibility and hope. Energy was visceral in the “room”.
What does Conscious Capitalism in practice look like in a time like this – for us as individuals, for our businesses and the sectors we operate in? How do we lead consciously? How do we better care for ourselves, each other and our collective future?
While we could not have ever expected that things could have ground to a halt in a way that they had, it presented opportunities. Amidst the challenges of the global pandemic and racial injustice, seeing painful reminders of the failings of our current systems, we felt that now, more than ever before, we must reimagine how we can show up as businesses and as individuals.
What was the most inspiring or extraordinary thing we had heard about or experienced during isolation? What stood out the most?
- There’s been an amazing sense of community. On the ground level, we’ve seen people in the local streets creating Facebook groups and communicating about food and how to help each other. And on an institutional level, we saw local government addressing homelessness in a very impactful way, showing it can be done if the will is strong enough.
- Some felt COVID was the circuit breaker that humanity needed; we returned to a simple life, looked at what was essential and what was not. We recognised the value of health, touch, and revisited what we valued. We saw how despite distance, we could be together globally. And how quickly community could assemble, and how quickly systems could change if forced to.
- While it was great that social justice was now front of mind in public, there was a concern about the divisiveness and polarization with identity politics, and potentially a rise of anti-capitalism. We acknowledged that many were angry, and there was a lack of trust in the current state of capitalism that wasn’t serving them, the people. And that what we need to do now is to offer solutions.
- This has to be a time of collaboration and leadership. We must show up collectively and embrace the mantle of leadership. Because governments will not be able to do it on their own. Because together we are stronger than we can be as individuals. And we can’t wait for others to do it.
- We also need to go beyond talk; it has to be about action. We have to be activists in a positive sense, through business.
BREAKOUT ROOMS BY TENETS…
We discuss the tenets in groups, to start making tangible what this looks like for us as conscious capitalists – whether a business owner, an employee, a customer, vendor, supplier or investor.
- Jacinda Ardern’s leadership style stood out in this time, demonstrating a different way of leading, and being successful in doing it. People are really questioning forms of leadership and communication. The idea of empathy in business is undervalued. Leaders should be understanding and accepting of people in their organisations. And because leaders are at the core of any organisation, we hope that the future of business involves more empathetic leaders.
- Dr Ashley Bloomfield, Director-General of Health in NZ was another example of people-centered leadership. Even though he was someone who still got butterflies in his stomach before a briefing, he made himself extraordinarily approachable during COVID; everyday at 1pm he addressed the citizens to share the latest information available, and saw his role as helping them join the dots, gathering the info and feeding it back to the system for people to make sense of what is happening. He even delegated his usual responsibilities to do that.
- There is a difference between being led by a higher purpose vs having a higher purpose.
- “If your vision isn’t about the kind of world that you believe in, or want to create or contribute to… then you’re not purpose-led.” That external facing vision is what is going to drive everyone in your organisation, and is what is going to attract everyone to you. More often than not, businesses express their purpose as how they’d like to see their business at some point in the future, or a passive statement of context for their products and services, which has no energising force.
- Tapping into the opportunity of purpose is really important especially during this time. Engage those who are specialised in this area.
- Collaboration and ensuring you have a culture where different voices are heard is important; having the lived experience of all of your stakeholders being part of the conversation to find the right way through.
- Covid is creating a dichotomy: we see some organisations starting to care more for their employees and saying “just a minute, we can do things differently”, as well as going straight to bottom lines, getting back to business and normal, and making money. How will this land? It will probably take many months, if not a few years, to play out.
- In addressing tensions and different needs of different stakeholders, how do we hear all sides and positions and find a pathway forward. The Deep Democracy process might be useful within organisations at this time, to explore all perspectives and bring about a culture of equality.
- Culture is such an important part for whether we can achieve the visions we set out to. Being values driven and principle-led is really crucial to creating a pathway forward that is conscious, and enabling us to achieve a vision.
- Having an empowered culture is exceedingly important in a time like this; a culture of support. Whether that’s a supportive culture within the organisation — supportive of ideas, challenges, uplifting one another and finding a way through — or having the right support outside the org so you don’t fall over.
- How can we have a mindset of looking for the wins for everybody, rather than just financial survival and just looking at costs as the first thing.
WHAT NOW? WHAT NEXT?
What have we heard? What’s alive in us? What do we feel called to do personally? What do you think this community could be doing to make the change that we want to see happen in the world?
- Tapping into the opportunity of purpose is very important at this time. Engaging people where they are at, and what their interests are. Being generic — “we’re about a better world“ — may not be sufficient to galvanise people. Identifying the things that people want to bring more of could be very powerful.
- There’s a lot of energy here. And we seem to be applying it individually, and through our businesses. Yet we’re hearing a lot of people say things like “I want to show up as an anti-racist, not a non-racist”. This energy seems to be swirling around undirected; it’s being directed by everyone individually, but it’s not being directed enough collaboratively. If we could find a way to get more specific and direct some of that energy to collaborate – not just through Conscious Capitalism, but also with other organisations like BCorps — we’ve got an incredible chance to do something through this Covid experience. And there’s a risk that it’s going to fall through our fingers if we don’t take action.
- Energy has to turn into real action. That’s the only way we can get results. It would be great to see how we explore specific actions, even if it is on a small scale. How do we all become activists of change?
As a lovely closing image…
- Purpose is like the banks of the river… and Passion is the energy that flows down the river. If you have too much Passion without Purpose, it goes all over the place. And if you have Purpose without Passion, it goes nowhere. Vision is how far down the river you can see, and it’s important to get that coherent. What is Conscious Capitalism’s purpose beyond Conscious Capitalism?
This leaves us with more questions…
- How do we use this community and this challenge to make the change? What does this look like?
- How might we as a community create movements of purpose around specific visions, whether it’s around the planet, or a more equal society? Be more specific, less generic.
- Following on the importance of a culture of support, can we create a better culture of support between members?
- How can we all be activist of change?
- Where is collaboration needed – what areas in Australia society: education? Global Goals? What about business-government collaboration?
There is much to chew on, and many questions yet to be answered. But one thing was clear. There was a shared desire to continue the conversation and to turn it into action. A recognition that collaboration is key, both amongst us, and with others who shared a similar vision, to come together to find solutions to “build back better”, And the sense that this moment was an opportunity we ought not to risk slipping through our fingers.
We do not have all the answers. And there is a long road ahead. But, we are committed to working together to live up to our shared vision for business as a force for good, as set forth in our Credo.