Writing a check is one of the easier ways an organization can “commit to a better world” these days. However, many businesses are learning their brand’s influence could have an even bigger economic impact on their communities. In the Harvard Business Reviews’ article Great Brands Never Have to “Give Back,” Denise Lee Yohn evaluates how companies are “looking for ways to create value for everyone who’s involved with their business – customers, employees, suppliers, communities, and shareholders. They’re redefining Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) as Creating Shared Value (CSV).”
Social marketing opportunities and online trends are making it easier for organizations to create shared value. One of the most recent—and bigger—examples of such brand-led programming is Coca-Cola’s 5by20 TM initiative. Their commitment to empowering women entrepreneurs in more than 200 countries has big plans to reach 5 million women by 2020. Coca-Cola’s belief is that women are pillars of the community. They spend large percentages of their earnings on their children and in their communities. Basically, if a woman makes money, she’s going to spend money—whether it is on food, clothing or education—and that is beneficial for everyone. Coca-Cola provides branded packaging, tools, business & design training, as well as the early investments needed to get these women started in an artisan business. From iPad covers to handbags and ornaments, Coca-Cola helps women set up shop for selling these items to their local communities and online. The 5by20 effort is just one of the humble yet significantly innovative ways Coca-Cola remains at the top of the branding food chain. Even if you do not love soft drinks, you have to applaud their efforts to be a conscious business leader.
The concept of aligning social efforts and brand strategies is just a portion of what many are calling Conscious Capitalism. This philosophy has actually been around since 2008, and teaches us that organizations can enhance performance while continuing to advance the quality of life for billions of people. It is made up of four principles:
- Higher Purpose – focusing on the purpose beyond the profit
- Conscious Leadership – centering direction around the “we” rather than the “me”
- Stakeholder orientation – strengthening of and creating value for the whole business ecosystem
- Conscious Culture – fosters a caring environment and builds trust between a company’s team members and its other stakeholders.
Conscious businesses look internally for opportunities that will better the world, and in turn, they tend to experience increased brand recognition and are successful.
Firms of Endearment
Raj Sisodia, co-founder and co-chairman of the Conscious Capitalism movement, identified several organizations as being the most conscious. He based his selection on characteristics such as their stated purpose, generosity of compensation, quality of customer service, investment in their communities, and impact on the environment. Sisodia calls these organizations “firms of endearment.”
Other US-based companies pledging allegiance to the Conscious Capitalist Credo include The Container Store, Panera Bread, Costco, Southwest Airlines, Tom’s Shoes, The Body Shop, and Whole Foods. John Mackey, co-CEO of Whole Foods, and Sisodia actually co-authored the book Liberating the Heroic Spirit of Business: Conscious Capitalism. They argue that not only is it possible to be both a conscious business and a capitalist business, but also that when used in tandem, these forces can produce powerful results.
You don’t have to be a fortune company to aspire for conscious business. Using your brand for the greater good can be beneficial to large, small and medium-sized organizations through creation of shared value. To be a conscious business, consider replacing old equipment with energy efficient equipment when it is time to update, use local suppliers, recycle, and—most important—look for ways to be innovative in your industry in a sustainable way. Talk to your employees. Ask them for ideas. Consider all suggestions as opportunities. It is the way to growth.
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