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An Inspiring Glimpse into the Heart of Conscious Capitalism 

JeVon McCormick, the CEO of Austin, Texas-based book publishing startup Scribe Media, keeps an unopened jar of peanut butter on the bookshelf behind his desk. McCormick tells people that he “grew up in chaos,” in a family dependent on welfare checks and food stamps to survive. As a child, that jar of sandwich spread represented an unattainable luxury. Today McCormick keeps it on display as a reminder to himself and others of what it is like to live in need — and what his calling is as an entrepreneur and CEO. “Some people believe that with those three letters come power, but they focus on the wrong power,” McCormick says. “The power that comes from them is the power to serve. That’s it.”

McCormick is one of five business leaders featured in online videos highlighting ethical approaches to capitalism, produced by online content producer Freethink in partnership with Conscious Capitalism and the John Templeton Foundation. The brief interviews offer more than feel-good stories of creative and compassionate leadership: they underscore the tenets of Conscious Capitalism as crystallized by the organization’s co-founders, Whole Foods co-founder and CEO John Mackey and business school professor Raj Sisodia: higher purpose, stakeholder orientation, conscious leadership, and conscious culture.

STAKEHOLDER BENEFITS

One video features Matt Altman, the co-founder and CEO of Sportique Apparel, who discusses the need for businesses to take all their various stakeholders — from customers to employees to the environment — into account. “For me, stakeholder integration is looking to have balance within that ecosystem where all parties are really winning,” Altman says. “It’s really putting humanity at the core of what’s happening.”

“We even consider our hens as stakeholders,” says Matt O’Hayer, who co-founded ethical egg and dairy product producer Vital Farms and is featured in another of the videos. For O’Hayer, a company’s ethical values needn’t be at odds with business success. Vital Farms went public last year in a successful IPO in part because the company was able to be up-front with potential investors about their ethical practices. “Having a deeper purpose for the company should be the driving force,” O’Hayer says. “When you do the right thing for the right reasons, the outcomes always turn out to be better for everyone.”

HIGHER PURPOSES

“Some companies go looking for a cause,” serial entrepreneur Magatte Wade says in another of the videos. “We were a cause looking for a product.” Wade hoped to help people become more mindful of their personal biases, while building a business that would create high-quality manufacturing jobs in her native Senegal. The end result was Skin is Skin, a line of natural, vegan lip balms. Wade says she wanted to build a brand with a sense of purpose because she believes brands can be a more powerful way to change a culture than an NGO or nonprofit. “A brand can’t force you to do anything. They have to be super-inspiring to capture your attention and also keep it and build together with you.”

Conscious Capitalism is not just for startups and other new ventures — even very traditional businesses can benefit from it. Melissa Perrin, the head of culture and communication at First United Bank, talks in another video about the ways a sense of purpose can benefit everyday interactions among employees and with customers. “It’s up to us to help people to get through the ebbs and flows of life, and so having those deep relationships allows us to have a level of trust and opportunity to mentor in a really deep and rich way,” Perrin says. “To me Conscious Capitalism is building a business that is healthy for your employees, it’s healthy for your customers … We know that it ultimately creates a life well spent for them.”

One long-standing criticism of capitalism holds that it is too narrowly focused on monetary profits to contribute to full human flourishing, says Amy Proulx, the John Templeton Foundation’s Program Officer for Individual Freedom & Free Markets. “For people who may be drawn to that critique, these videos give voice to the compelling case that businesses can be engines for the common good,” Proulx says. “For people looking for ways to encourage business as a force for good, these stories are an inspiring breath of fresh air.”

STILL CURIOUS?

Watch and share the videos at Freethink.

Learn more about the philosophy of Conscious Capitalism.