It’s time for conscious capitalism

Blaming and bashing capitalism, and business by default, for being focused on profits and money is superficial and backward, yet becoming ingrained in our culture. Bit like reality TV, but dumber.

Not everyone in business is, or wants to be a Wall Street wolf. Most business owners know better than to be in it for the bucks and many give about 20% back to charity, local schools or causes, according to national research averages.

It’s time (RIP Gough) for supporting conscious capitalism if we want to get on with growing our economy.

Professor Ed Freeman from the University of Virginia says the only place where entrepreneurs start businesses just to make profits is in economic textbooks; the real world works differently.

He says business is the key way our society creates trade, value, jobs and provides a living for us all – it relies on human cooperation and requires a sense of purpose. Its inherently competitive nature provides for choice and cost control. “Conscious capitalism” has always been around, Freeman says, and means genuinely aligning the interests of customers, suppliers, employees, communities and finance so businesses succeed and can reinvest in people. Every sector – industry, government and education should equally apply its principles and we should all demand it (something to think about ahead of many upcoming elections). Making money’s not bad, it’s vital; how it’s spent and saved is the issue.

Freeman’s tips:

  • When you identify why your business really exists, beyond generating profit, you can catalyse its purpose and opportunities.
  • First, however, you have to actually make enough money to be sustainable so be pragmatic.
  • Understand how all your stakeholders matter as interdependent, integrated parts of your business to see how to drive it harder.
  • Create a conscious culture in and around your business by fostering trust, authenticity, transparency, integrity, empowerment and ownership with every stakeholder.
  • If you’re perpetrating some version of the “business sucks story”, as Freeman calls it, then change jobs, change countries, change friends or change your mind. It’s time for a change and you’re stuck in 2009.