Members of the Conscious Capitalism organization argue companies who want to make the world a better place aren’t just virtuous; they’re making a smart investment. A new local branch of Conscious Capitalism launches Friday as a part of the Lead with Love summit.
Gina Murdock, founder of Lead With Love, wants the world to be more mindful. She wants everyone to feel like they’re a part of something bigger and thinks the best place to make this happen is where a lot of us spend most of our days.
“To have a more mindful, purposeful workplace is the way you can affect people’s lives the most,” she said.
Conscious Capitalism is a worldwide organization that encourages businesses to focus on serving a purpose, not just on profiting. Some companies on board with the movement include Whole Foods, Starbucks, CostCo and Southwest Airlines.
Businesses like these say they see everyone as a stakeholder, from customers to suppliers to the communities in which they operate, and that they care about supporting their employees, personally and professionally.
Murdock said the valley needs Conscious Capitalism because if workers are on board with their company’s mission, they might stick around a little longer.
"You have to make work much more meaningful for people. Otherwise, they’re going to leave and we have a real issue with employee retention here," she said.
Murdock started to wonder if there was a hunger for meaning in the local business world after lots of interest in the entrepreneurial track of last year’s Lead with Love summit. One of the keynote speakers for that track was Raj Sisodia. He co-founded Conscious Capitalism with John Mackey, former CEO of Whole Foods.
Sisodia said Conscious Capitalism challenges the traditional belief that businesses should maximize profit at all costs.
"You have to pay your people as little as possible and you have to charge your customers as much as you can. There’s kind of a mentality of...a zero-sum game, which is that my gain comes at your loss," he said.
Sisodia has an analogy. True happiness, he said, is a result of having a purpose, of living according to principals. It’s the same for profits, he thinks; they’re a byproduct, but shouldn’t be the focus. He has done research that shows Conscious Capitalism isn’t too bad for a company’s bottom line.
"Companies that operate in this way create a lot more value in the long term because they have people who are deeply engaged in their work, they have customers who are deeply loyal to the business, you don’t have to spend a lot of money on marketing or on sales, they have suppliers who are helping the business get better and investors who are patient," he said.
He says nine out of 10 of these companies actually outperform their competition.
That’s part of the draw for Ants Cullwick. He owns Koru, a Carbondale-based construction company that’s one of the founding members of the new Roaring Fork branch of Conscious Capitalism. He’s unapologetic about the need to be profitable.
"You cannot be sustainable as a business if you’re not profitable. For me, profit has to be viewed as a key metric for any business," he said.
Cullwick said he wants to run a company where he himself would want to work.
"Is the mission something I believe in? Do I have an understanding of how what I do affects the outcome of that? Do I have some autonomy in creating a life for myself?" he said.
Cullwick hopes that the local branch of Conscious Capitalism will help Roaring Fork Valley companies come together, share ideas and hear experts talk about culture and strategy.
"We have companies and businesses that are aware of a broader mission, that are tied to creating a better existence or a better experience for a broader population. That’s so central to much of the Roaring Fork Valley," he said.
But following those ideals when your budget is squeezed? Even Gina Murdock admits, that’s tough.
"It’s easy to talk the talk, but it is really challenging to walk the walk because of numerous circumstances, but a lot of it is financial," she said.
Murdock knows there might be skepticism about melding business with mindfulness, and yes, a little bit of spirituality.
"It’s very aspirational. In some ways, it’s like, 'Oh, good for you. Good luck with that,'" she said.
But there’s strength in numbers. Joining with other businesses might bring local entrepreneurs a little closer to making these ideals a reality.