How To Build a Conscious Business

Nowadays, businesses focused on profit do so at their own peril.  Compelling data shows that we increasingly prioritize meaning and bettering our world as key factors in deciding where to spend our money and where to work. Over the past months we’ve seen businesses doing things once thought impossible to rise to the COVID occasion, including prioritizing health over money. With the significant societal and environmental problems we have to solve, there is mass recognition that how we’ve been running businesses isn’t working and we must seek alternatives.

The Conscious Business Movement includes a web of collaborative organizations that work together to promote the elevation of humanity through business. Certified B Corps, companies practicing Conscious Capitalism, and Benefit Corporations are all a part of this movement, creating an increasingly powerful ecosystem to benefit our society, environment and economy.  No matter which path you take, there are fundamentals that every business leader must address to build a conscious business.

Why does your business exist?

The Purpose of your business is different from your Vision and Mission and is not a marketing tagline. The Purpose is a clear, inspiring articulation of the worthy problem your business is attempting to solve in the world.  The “world” might be macro, as in Patagonia’s Purpose “Save our home planet”, or your community, as in ProsperityME’s Purpose “Empowering immigrants to succeed economically in the community”. The key is that you are singularly and passionately focused on this Purpose.  Get your team together and ask them – why do we exist?  You might be surprised about the variety of answers you get.  Defining your Purpose is the foundation of your conscious business.

What do leaders do in your company?

Anyone with any work experience knows that the way a company is led makes all the difference. A conscious business builds conscious leaders whose consistent aim is to achieve the company’s Purpose, not meet the bottom line. Conscious leaders are developed and rewarded for their many levels of intelligence – intellectual, emotional, systems, and spiritual. They deeply care for everyone they work with and holistically support people to live their best lives. Has your company articulated leadership principles and trained, supported and held leaders accountable to following those principles?  If not, you have an amazing opportunity to move further along on the conscious business journey. 

What culture are you cultivating at your company?

Culture is the most powerful lever to achieve your Purpose and business strategy. So why do so many companies leave culture to chance?  It’s often because culture feels big and amorphous and leadership doesn’t understand their culture creating role.  The saying, “As a leader you get the company/team you deserve”, is true.  Everything leadership does influences the culture.  When you have defined your desired culture then the programs, practices, policies, rewards, spoken and unspoken ways of working, the space you work in – just to name a few things – become tools to build your aspirational culture.  Ask yourself, do we have a vision for the aspirational culture and are we are working together to build it? 

How do you add value to all your stakeholders?

Every business has a bunch of stakeholders – at a minimum the employees, customers, shareholders, suppliers, community, environment.  These stakeholders are impacted by your business in a myriad of ways.  In traditional business we are trained that shareholders are the most important stakeholder.  Other stakeholders must lose for shareholders to win. Conscious businesses reject tradeoff thinking and work hard to ensure every stakeholder gains value.  COVID emphasized the importance of stakeholder loyalty. When shareholders ran, the companies surviving and thriving during COVID had stakeholders that rallied together to keep the businesses they cared about afloat in an unprecedented economic downturn.  As a start, ask yourself, do I know who my stakeholders are and how my business impacts them?  If not, now you know where to start. 

While building a conscious business is not easy, rarely is anything worth doing easy.  Building a business that everyone benefits from leaves a lasting leadership legacy.