As younger, more environmentally and socially conscious generations become the consumers, employees, business managers and owners of today and of the future, so businesses are evolving to reflect their way of seeing the world. For the millennials and Gen Z especially, the biggest company who sells the cheapest stuff is much less likely to appeal to them than it did to baby boomers or even to Gen Xers. The trend is moving towards an authentic buying experience where, at the risk of sounding ethereal, people nowadays shop with their hearts and souls, not just their wallets. Even a grocery list can be an expression of a person’s values. This is why companies like Patagonia and Ben & Jerry’s are becoming household names. Not just because their products are popular, but because people like the fact that they make a positive contribution to the world around them.
Hence, the new generations are more likely to be drawn to companies that share their values and beliefs, especially when it comes to making the world a better place. And so, more and more of the successful businesses out there are defining the ‘higher purpose’ at the core of their brand. This higher purpose usually involves being a force for good, socially and/or environmentally
Because these days, if you want a loyal brand following, it is no longer enough to give people bang for buck and only focus on the bottom line. People buy what you believe, not just what you sell. Here’s a simple example: As a consumer you are faced with two almost identical soda can drinks. The first has a healthy or socially/environmentally responsible element to it (eg. made with fair trade-sourced sugar) and the second is a standard brand but in a bigger can and for a cheaper price. Which will you choose? Chances are that 51% of you would choose the first and 49% the second. That gap will only continue to widen.
The Conscious Capitalism movement embodies this new way of thinking about how we can harness this new order and, essentially, use business to do good as well as make a profit. John Mackey, the Co-Founder and Co-CEO of Whole Foods Market and Co-author, with Rajendra Sisodia, of ‘Conscious Capitalism: Liberating the Heroic Spirit of Business’ puts it this way: “’Conscious Capitalism’ is a way of thinking about capitalism and business that better reflects where we are in the human journey, the state of our world today, and the innate potential of business to make a positive impact on the world. Conscious businesses are galvanised by higher purposes that serve, align and integrate the interests of all their major stakeholders.”
This is not Corporate Social Responsibility by another name. CSR has become synonymous with greenwashing as companies adopt CSR programs with the aim of improving their image amongst an increasingly socially and environmentally aware public. The Conscious Capitalism website puts it like this: ‘Conscious Capitalism differs from Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) by virtue of its origins from within the company as an expression of an overall perspective on how to conceive and build a business, rather than as a response to external notions of what counts as ‘socially responsible’ or external pressure.’
We believe in this idea of putting a higher purpose at the core of your brand. It’s important for owners and managers of any business, whether it be commercial or not for profit, to ask themselves why they exist beyond the bottom line. We uncover what’s at the core of an organisation, ie. its higher purpose. Because once you know why you are doing what you’re doing, what drives the passion among your people to do their best and what legacy you want to leave behind, you will have a business or organisation that is unique, sustainable and authentic and that can galvanise all its stakeholders behind the same higher purpose.
Some examples of the big companies that are already successful proponents of the conscious capitalism movement are: Patagonia, Google, Ben & Jerry’s, Interface floor, Intrepid Travel and many, many more. A great place to find companies that use business as a force for good, and are officially recognised for it, is the B Corp website. Here you will find a whole community of companies working to be the change they want to see in the world.
Remember: It’s not about communicating that you’re great, but what you believe is great, that will engage and inspire your like-minded future client/employee/investor.