What’s in a name?: The difference between certified B Corps and Benefit Corporations

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Benefit Corporation, being certified B Corp, sounds like the same thing right? Are they the same thing? Well, sometimes, but by definition no.

In this episode of Dirigo Collective’s podcast, Responsibly Different, listen as host, Benn Marine talks with Conscious Revolution founder, Tara Jenkins and Helen Sterling Coburn, an attorney with Bernstein Shur and they unpack the differences between certified B Corps, Benefit Corporations, and where they intersect.

What’s in a name?

Access the forms you need to convert to a Benefit Corporation in the state of Maine

Read the Benefit Corporation Statute in Maine

Learn more about Benn Marine and Dirigo Collective

Learn more about Helen Sterling Coburn from Bernstein Shur

Let’s Fix Corporate Social Responsibility

Reading Time: 4 minutes

Corporate social responsibility has gone wrong and we can fix it 

“This picture shows all of the lights on in this giant building” a colleague said flatly. After rounds of review by many stakeholders, no one noticed this, including me, and I was leading the corporate social responsibility (CSR) report project.  How could we have all missed that picture? The report was supposed to tell a story of the company’s commitment to community, employees, and the environment. The picture’s inclusion was a big clue to the real motives and the underlying hypocrisy that fuels a lot of CSR work in corporations.

In 2019, 86% of the Fortune 500 published a sustainability, CSR, or environmental, social, governance (ESG) report- all versions of reports that share a company’s focus or impact on their community, employees, and environment. In 2011, under 20% of the Fortune 500 released a CSR report. By 2015, the number reporting was 81%. Why the huge increase? The pressure has been on and I saw that play out first hand at my former company. Customers start asking questions about a company’s impact, fueled by millennials entering the workforce in droves, a generation of people focused on meaning and purpose in life and work. Board members are competitive by nature. When some companies start doing something Board members ask why aren’t we doing that?  Why don’t we have a CSR report? We’d better get our act together. And bam, a fancy report is created with lots of attractive design, celebratory stories, data,  and tons of pictures. Argh, back to the pictures again.  Pictures that show lights on in a giant building in a section about energy savings.  

So shouldn’t all this self proclaimed do-goodery have led to significant societal impact and the resolution of societal problems? With 86% of the most successful, powerful, and resource rich companies focusing on environmental and social issues we should be celebrating major strides in ending hunger and poverty and other social justice issues, in addressing climate change, and have well funded non profits focused on providing needed services rather than fundraising. Yet we sit with ever worsening social and environmental justice issues no matter where you look. Why is that?

CSR is for marketing, not for impact.

As in my experience, many CSR reports are for show, to appease a Board or important stakeholder. The report serves a marketing purpose, a check the box exercise that allows a company to say “see, we have this”.  Since there is not a mandated criteria defining good CSR, companies can weave any story they’d like, and as long as some progress is made it’s noteworthy, publishable, and generally accepted. 

CSR is stand-alone, not embedded in the business strategy

CSR is a separate initiative at many companies, a project that needs to be updated every once in a while, not embedded into the business strategy or the decision making process. Those who work earnestly and tirelessly on CSR efforts within the company are rarely part of the senior management team and rarely report directly to any member of the C-Suite. Their ability to influence decision makers is minimal. The business strategy is void of CSR goals and even more, the C-Suite doesn’t embed CSR into the desired outcomes of the business strategy. 

CSR is based on a “give back” rather root cause  

Lots of companies brag about “giving back” to their communities. What’s inherent in this philosophy is the recognition that they took something to begin with. Most of them do take lots of things from the community and their give back is no where near equivalent to the taking. Many companies cause serious environmental and societal harm by impacting land and water resources, paying below livable wages, perpetuating social injustice within their walls, and causing chronic employee health issues. To make up for all this harm, their “give back” strategy often throws money at the non-profits where the top leadership of the company is on the Board. There’s no giving strategy, no plan, and even worse, all that giving doesn’t actually solve anything. Giving money to a homeless shelter or a hunger initiative doesn’t solve the problem of why people are homeless and hungry. No matter what the cause, this approach to funding perpetuates band-aid solutions that may be essential in the moment, but never end because we aren’t working on solving the actual problem.   

CSR is not linked to the purpose of the organization

Research and my own experience indicates that the most important work a company can do is articulate its purpose; the reason the company exists beyond making money. The purpose aims to solve a worthy problem in the world while generating profit. The profit fuels the work the company must do to solve the worthy problem. When an organization is devoted to discovering and activating their purpose, they are addressing all of the common CSR failures above. The purpose is the key component of the business strategy and by nature addresses root cause problems. Without this purpose as a compass, companies lack clarity about where or how to focus their efforts and funding. The result is a peanut butter approach to spreading their funds, from the symphony to homeless shelters to kids programs to the local United Way. Spreading money has minimal impact. Imagine if all of the Fortune 500 articulated their purpose and designed their business around fulfilling that purpose profitably, while also investing all of their community related resources and budget towards solving that program? Wow, would our world be dramatically different. 

So what’s next?

So what are we getting as a result of all this CSR reporting? We had to start somewhere with social and environmental accountability so the good news is that we’ve gotten started. The first stage of change is awareness and we’ve got 86% of the biggest companies aware that they need to talk about their social and environmental impact. Yet, the threat to progress is complacency and being satisfied with voluntary reporting as the accepted standard. As long as companies can continue to shape the narrative on their own, CSR reports will be primarily marketing.  

The next stage of our CSR evolution is accountability to a standardized set of metrics and expected progress so investors, employees and customers can easily compare what companies are doing and the impact. Additionally, companies must articulate their worthy problem to profitably solve and align their CSR efforts in the fulfillment of that purpose, while working with all of their stakeholders to determine the best balance of root case and give back initiatives in the community. 

There are authentic and transparent companies doing highly impactful CSR work and those  companies will welcome the call to declare a purpose, align CSR efforts with that purpose, and standardize accountability. Their meaningful CSR initiatives will be readily apparent to employees, customers, investors, and partners, serving as a key differentiator in their ongoing quest to be a successful business while building a better world. As investors, customers and employees we all play a role in changing how business is done through our funding, purchasing, and discretionary effort. Like many other aspects of our society today, the time to accelerate the evolution of CSR is now.

How To Build a Conscious Business

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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.

Start Creating our New World Now

Reading Time: 5 minutes

Social revolution has always started with people, not with government, not with business.  While it can seem that we are powerless as individuals, we actually hold the most power. Take an issue that makes you angry and follow it to the root cause. At its root was a decision by an individual or a bunch of individuals that had the power to make a different decision. Through our votes, we decide who represents us in the government. Through our money, we decide which businesses thrive, a double whammy because thriving businesses in many ways control the government. Our collective power is unmatched. The pandemic has opened us up to see what’s possible. It’s possible for us to put people’s safety and health over money. It’s possible for us to prioritize humanity on a global scale. Lots of people are asking, how will the world be different after this is all over? I’ve been turning that around in my mind, looking for an answer I can settle on. 

First, we must acknowledge that the pandemic is a nightmare for many people around the world. We are all horrified by the news headlines. Yet for many of us that’s a distant reality. For many of us, quarantining is an inconvenience. The widespread financial impact of job loss has  safety nets, allowing housing payment delays, loan forgiveness and expanded unemployment. We know there’s a likely reprieve if we can’t pay a bill. While there are devastating impacts, the pandemic has created unexpected positive outcomes as well:

  • Our Earth has been given time to heal from our relentless degradation.  
  • Corporations have found innovative and swift solutions to solve global issues, solutions once thought impossible in times when profit was prioritized first. 
  • Families are spending more quality time together and there is a collective slowing down, taking stock
  • Communities have come together to support and rally around one another

Ask A Different Question

What will our world be like when this is all over? A danger lies in that question. The question creates complacency, making this all seem like time wasted in waiting. It sets up that once this is all over we can breathe a sigh of relief and return back to “normal”. But back to normal for most of the world was already unacceptable. A world where the anonymous quote “if you aren’t outraged, you aren’t paying attention” was ever present. Do we really want to go back to that? If we think about it differently than being “over” does that change how we approach this time?  What if this is an opportunity to RESET our society starting right now? Starting now to apply our key learnings. Starting now to shape the world how we want it to be. Starting now to visualize the evolved world we are going to actively create. How could we do this now?   

Broaden the work from home approach now

Far more jobs can be done from home than ever anticipated. Many companies had old fashioned thinking about “face time” and “butts in seats”. There’s no need to go back to the way it was.  Working from home on a larger scale saves enormous resources; less oil from reduced driving, less heating and cooling big spaces, less carbon in the air. OK, maybe it is optimal to have people see each other in person sometimes. So do that sometimes, it doesn’t need to be everyday. In fact every day is incredibly inefficient when you factor in commute time. Some 100% remote companies have proven that a wonderful culture can be built remotely. Tons of research shows that people are more productive at home, despite the draconian managers belief that people need to be watched like children. Imagine how much better working from home will be for everyone when the kids are back in school!  Companies can start planning a post pandemic work from home policy right now. 

Stop buying “stuff” 

We don’t need as much stuff as we thought we did, do we? In this unusual time our minimalist approach to life is fueled by store closures and product shortages. Has it really mattered that we couldn’t buy the latest gigamabob? Not at all. What if we assumed everything was 4X the cost of the retail price and then asked ourselves if we really need it?  4X is conservative. If the actual cost of all of the stages of the product life cycle were included, such as the environmental degradation created to make the product, the societal cost of the child labor, the transportation costs of distribution, and the livable wage workers should be making it’s definitely more than 4x cost. So if you had to pay 4X more for every product you buy, what would you choose to buy? A lot less stuff, a lot more consciously. What if each time you bought a product you had to give the difference between the price you actually paid and 4X to a grassroots organization fighting to solve a mass consumption problem?  Be ready for the onslaught of marketing in our eventual recovery telling us it’s patriotic to buy stuff. As soon as it seems reputationally safe to do this our government and big business will start this campaign. Don’t fall for it.  

Stop buying fast fashion and new clothes

The clothes we have are enough. The apparel industry is a top pollutor in the world.. If we shift how much we buy (a lot less), how often we buy (less frequently), where we buy (resale stores rather than new) and reject fast fashion (designed to sell us cheap, low quality clothing that is highly discarded) then the industry will be forced to shift too.

Boycott companies that are only out for themselves

We can choose now to only buy from companies that align with our values and are focused on the greater good rather than solely on their own success. The bad actors of our society need a message that their ways are no longer acceptable. Social media has many costs and benefits but one of the clear benefits is that employees can share the real story directly. We don’t have to sort through companies’ marketing strategies to determine what’s really going on there. And COVID has changed our expectations about what’s possible. Let’s not forget what we’ve learned. One obvious company to boycott – Amazon. 

Devote your precious time and energy consciously

While no one knows what the recovery will look like, at some point companies will surely be scrambling to hire lots of workers to meet rising demand, as so many have laid off extensively.  It will again be an “employee” market, where workers will have more leverage due to demand and a plethora of choices. Choose wisely. While you may not have a choice at the start of the recovery you will have a choice again in the not too distant future. Choosing to work for a conscious company will make all the difference in your life and also in our world. 

We can envision our new world and act now

What if the companies that emerge stronger from this experience are the best companies for the world? These are the companies that provide the most meaningful work for employees and are intent on doing something good.  When the cranks of the economy get turning again we all have immediate choices to make about what company we work for, what products we buy, and how we spend our time. We have the power to force systemic change.  We have all been indelibly changed by this experience and we can take the time now to commit to what we will change about our behavior, our buying, our holistic life when we move to the next phase. There’s no mystery about what shapes the next phase – it’s us. 

Crisis Proof Your Business

Reading Time: 4 minutes

A reporter interviewing me about Conscious Business recently asked an important question:

It seems it would be easier to build a conscious business when economic times are good. In times of economic struggle isn’t it more challenging to be a conscious business?

A valid question. Let’s break it down. What we know is this: Conscious companies have a Higher Purpose and an unwavering commitment to their values that provides clarity in tough times; the long term orientation inherent in Conscious companies pays off in downturns; Conscious companies have deep stakeholder relationships that will keep the company afloat; and critically, Conscious companies are more profitable. These attributes crisis proof Conscious companies in ways not possible in businesses that exist to maximize profit. 

Higher Purpose is the most important insurance

Conscious businesses have a deep sense of purpose and meaning and values that guide them, regardless of the circumstances. Making tough decisions happens in every company. When you have a Higher Purpose for your business, a worthy problem that you are focused above all to solve, you have a compass to guide your decisions. It’s so much easier to find your direction with a compass!  When faced with a difficult decision, the key question a conscious business leader asks is, “How does this decision fulfill our Purpose and reflect our values?”. The discipline to ask this question is incredibly important when running a holistically successful business and is critical during an economic downturn. Employees passionate about the Purpose are even more driven to pull the company through hard times because they are working towards something more than making money for a select few. Employees can do amazing things when they want to – they can make or break a company! This story by Mike Rowe, Dirty Jobs blogger, reminds me of the ethos created with Higher Purpose. Not only will employees be more driven with a Higher Purpose, they will partner to figure out business problems and be incredibly loyal to companies that show genuine care, as demonstrated in this CNBC article about the value of Higher Purpose to employees.

A big part of Conscious business decision making is a long term orientation. Many of us have worked for a quarter to quarter company and know the perils of that short term thinking. A company practicing long term orientation has created more insulation against economic challenges because they think about scenarios over years, rather than quarters. This long term orientation causes diversity in investments, services and product lines because they are in tune with the insights of their employees and the needs of their customers. Employees truly know the customers, leadership is emotionally intelligent, deeply listens and collaborates, and the culture is based on trust, not fear of failure. The freedom to fail is one of the number one ingredients in innovative cultures. Innovation is crucial in hard times when lack of funding requires extra creativity. 

Who cares if you go under?

When a profit maximizing company has no profit, who does the company turn to for support and partnership in a time of crisis? Who cares if they stay afloat? No one because they have burned through their relationships with employees, the community and customers in the pursuit of making more money. To save a company requires people to care about the company’s existence. There must be an emotional connection to want to keep that company around. Companies that focus on profit growth do not facilitate these types of relationships with their stakeholders. The first stakeholder they most often alienate in tough times is their employees. The employees could help the most through a tough time, yet they are often cut out of the equation first. The typical layoff scenario has a wave approach, where one set of employees is laid off first, with the remaining employees constantly wondering who is next. This approach is guaranteed to cut off the employee’s motivation to help, superseded by layoff survivor syndrome and fear of what’s going to happen to them. An HBR article cites a study where after a layoff “the survivors experienced a 41% decline in job satisfaction, a 36% decline in organizational commitment and a 20% decline in job performance.” From what I’ve seen in my HR work across many companies, those percentages are generous.  Layoffs are a recipe for long term disaster.

Your stakeholders will help you

Conscious businesses have deep and reciprocal relationships with all of their stakeholders and lean on those partnerships to thrive in an economic downturn. Meaningful relationships with stakeholders yields different solutions than traditional business, applying an abundance mindset, not scarcity or trade-off thinking. There are different solutions that emerge when people come together with the goal of helping each other instead of competing with one another. With strong stakeholder relationships employees will take a pay cut or unpaid leave in order to keep the business afloat. Customers will accept price increases or buy more. Suppliers will defer payments or allow different pricing structures to avoid their strong partner going out of business. The community will keep the business alive if they love the business, like the story about Whole Foods getting flooded in the early days. The community, vendors, investors, creditors, etc. loved the store so much that they helped rebuild the store. 

One the first page of my website you will find some compelling data about Conscious companies being more profitable. Bottom line, Conscious companies are more profitable and there’s lots of research to prove that.  Higher profit combined with a long term orientation makes weathering a recession far more likely than a profit maximizing company.

The reckoning is here

We know Conscious companies survive and thrive through hard times much better than other companies. The challenge is to convince traditional capitalists, focused on profit, to put in the work to consciously create the culture, leadership, higher purpose and stakeholder orientation during the good times, when short term thinking deludes traditional leaders into thinking that this foundational work is not a priority. Money is flowing so why invest time when there’s so much money to be made!? Instead they spend their time on traditional business activities – finance, marketing, selling – without a sustainable business foundation. 

In the Conscious Business Movement we often talk about a reckoning for profit maximizing businesses where they will have to change how they operate or go out of business. We might see that reckoning play out during this economic downturn. The companies that typically operate in a profit maximizing mode won’t survive or are severely impacted in the recovery and “survival of the fittest” points to Conscious companies as the new definition of “fittest”.  

 

Calling all business leaders to paradigm shift yourselves, stat!

A sculpture of a huge brown mask among wildflowers
Reading Time: 6 minutes

Since leaving the Human Resources field I’ve been calling into question almost everything about how the people related work in an organization is done. I’m holding up the status quo up to examine it closely and get curious about who is served by that “way” of doing something. I have come to believe that the way HR does their work and how HR is structured is harming employees, therefore harming companies. And I have years of making up to do for my contribution to this mess.

Yes, we all know it, people are your most valuable asset as a company. There’s lots of company lip service to that overused and under delivered marketing statement. It’s a marketing statement because very few companies actually operate with the belief of employees being most valuable embedded in the way they do things – their policies, practices, beliefs and customs – their culture. In fact, the reason why building conscious businesses resonates so much with virtually anyone I talk to is that everyone has worked at a crappy company with a horrible boss with a bad culture. And many realized in going through that experience that there’s really very little you can do in that situation other than leave. You can’t change the soul sucking trifecta of a profit plundering company that permits bad leadership and doesn’t care about the culture. Those of us in the conscious business movement are bound and determined to do it another way. Conscious business principles apply a different lens to culture and leadership than our traditional models. And the conscious business revolution requires putting on trial everything we’ve done to get to this point in our business evolution – where the traditional, profit and growth maximizing model is only working for a small minority– and determining what we need to flip around and look at completely differently. The world is calling for a different model for business success, based on more than the financials. And by the way, this different model is actually more profitable! 

This is part 1 of a two part series where I’m proposing we redesign how to do our work. based on conscious business principles around culture, leadership, stakeholder orientation, and higher purpose. What we are talking about is not the job of HR, it’s the job of leadership to embody these principles and hold all leaders and HR accountable for architecting and carrying out the people related work differently. You know how applying the same thinking to a problem gives the same result? What we need is a paradigm shift. Ready? Let’s go.  

Candidates are your customers

I’m starting with the first entry point for employees because it’s everyone’s first experience of your culture so it’s incredibly important. And what you must do is stop acting like candidates are not worthy of the same respect as your customers. I wish I didn’t need to say this but postings on Glassdoor and other social media shows we need to talk. Look at your hiring process in comparison to your sales process. There should be lots of similarities. Your organization and your open positions are your products to sell. You want to attract customers that are interested in your products and would gain value from those products. You are looking for the same thing in an employee. How would thinking of the relationship with candidates akin to relationships with customers change how you advertise your positions? What would you do with the interview process if instead you were designing a series of meetings for an important customer? A candidate is more important than a customer because the right employee will impact your organization’s long term success far more than any one customer could. How did we all decide that candidates should be so grateful that we graced them with our awful recruiting experience rather than us being grateful to candidates for giving us the time of day?  

How do you really know what it feels like to be a candidate going through your hiring process? Go through it yourself! It’s like the mystery shopper that’s really trying to understand the customer experience or the CEO who shows up at work in disguise to get a real sense for what goes on in the place. You’ll learn a ton and become more emphatic to the candidate that applies for a job at your company. And you will make changes. If you don’t have enough recruiters to curate a stellar candidate experience stop making excuses and invest. It will pay off.

Employee experience = Customer experience

You check in with your customers regularly to see how they are feeling about your product and how you could further meet their needs. You don’t do this check-in using only one method, you have to be creative and gather insights in lots of ways to get customers to pay attention and give you actionable intel. It’s no different with your employees. You have to care enough to get creative and have many ways of trying to figure out what’s going on in your company – managers asking team members, team members comfortable sharing feedback, town hall meetings with questions submitted in advance, ask the CEO forums, anonymous surveys, an independent hotline. Variety gives you the most actionable insight. Most importantly, you have to actually care about what employees are saying and do something about it. If you don’t plan to take the feedback to heart and do something then don’t bother asking. It’s worse to ask and then ignore.

When a customer has an issue you solve it, or at least really try to solve it. When an employee has an issue it’s often covered up or they are told to not come with problems, come with solutions. If they could solve the problem themselves why would they be asking you for help? I have heard “don’t come to me with problems, come to me with solutions” throughout my career. I’ve even said it myself. It’s bunk. Inherent in the statement is that people are stupid and lazy and the almighty leader needs to push them out of their natural sloth-like state. The thinking is wrong. People want to do well, they want to succeed. They apply their talents to get as far as they can and sometimes need help. A leader’s job is to coach their team members to recognize solutions. That’s the amazing power of coaching!

When a customer buys your product and they are disappointed or don’t like it, do you blame the customer? If you are a successful company you learn from the feedback, make changes, and try to retain the customer. Yet when an employee is having a rough time we blame them, shame them, and often fire them. We rationalize our actions because they are “bad” or “don’t get it” or “aren’t cutting it”. A disengaged or poor performing employee is the equivalent of a customer who has stopped buying your product. Is this because something has changed for them, because they don’t know how to do their job, or because they no longer like your company? Or has something significant changed in their life that is causing them to change their behavior? Who knows until you actually ask them and really care about the answer.

There is no talent war, only an outdated way of thinking about talent

The traditional way of thinking about recruiting is that you have to find the best and the brightest that have the required skills and experience. If you follow this approach, there will always be a talent shortage or a “war for talent” because there is a limit on the “best and brightest”. We’ve created a self-fulfilling prophecy with narrow, uninspired thinking about what it takes to be successful in positions or at our companies in general. There are the leaders who will only hire people from the state they are in, won’t consider remote workers, won’t hire people over a certain age, or people whose first language isn’t English (yes, both are discriminatory, but you know this still happens whether consciously or unconsciously). This cuts off so many people with so much to contribute! The companies that truly value diversity, equity and inclusion believe that every person has special talents to share that can be cultivated. Instead of asking “is this person the absolute best for this job?” they instead ask “in what ways can this person make a contribution to our company – what is their natural talent?” with a belief that everyone has natural talents to contribute. Natural talents come easily to people. Things that come easily are enjoyed and done well. The best companies believe each leader has a responsibility to bring out the best in each person and help their team accomplish more than they ever believed they could.  

The paradigm shift is a shareholder to stakeholder shift

What I’ve highlighted only scratches the surface of the paradigm shift we need to make. Everything we do and all of the ways we think about people at work needs close examination. A key principle of conscious business is to add value to all stakeholders, not only your investors. You can dip into creating stakeholder value by asking yourself the question, “who benefits and who is harmed by this decision/process/policy?” When you pose that question about the traditional approaches to “managing” employees you see clearly that employees are often harmed for the “benefit” of the company, who is often prioritizing the investor above all. Can a company fulfill its potential and sustainably succeed if the employees are being harmed while working there? Nope. Question everything.

Photo by Magda Ehlers from Pexels.