Goizueta Dean Erika James discusses the roots of “conscious capitalism,” how it has become increasingly popular, what it looks like today, and why it’s important to businesses, communities, and society, and the role of business schools in promoting the concept.
“Conscious capitalism” describes companies and organizations that have purpose behind the work that they do that goes beyond the core product or services that their organization delivers to have a broader, more positive impact on society at large.
Early examples are Ben & Jerry's Ice Cream and TOMS Shoes, but it is not just the province of small start-ups. The Coca-Cola Company has an initiative around women and water that is examining how the company can mitigate the impact of its product requiring so much water, including on the communities from which that water is being taken. The founder of Whole Foods, John Mackey, is also one of the founders of the conscious capitalism movement.
Increasing generations of younger people are passionate about being part of organizations that have a meaningful purpose beyond business and profits and as they get into higher education and the workforce, they are articulating the expectations they have of the organizations where they'll be working. In addition, senior leaders in some well-established companies are seeing the need to change the way have done business because it may have a negative effect on the environment or other things pertinent to quality of life.
In 2019, the Business Roundtable issued a statement related to conscious capitalism which signaled broader support for the concept. Increasingly, political matters are also contributing to a sense of the importance of this work. It is likely that many companies will begin to see positive financial gain by investing and doing work in this manner.
Students entering business schools now have a clear preference and expectation that they will learn about business and industry in a manner consistent with what matters to them. The fundamental areas of finance, accounting, marketing, leadership, information systems, and operations continue but now with an overlay of how to think about each of those fundamental domains in a way that takes into consideration a much more conscious approach to how business is done.
More institutions of higher education are trying to create opportunities for their students to be grounded in real-world issues and challenges, and to engage in the community in ways that they had not, historically.
Gift to the Goizueta Business School
The Goizueta Business School recently received a $30 million gift from The Goizueta Foundation which will allow the school to experiment with new ways to deliver online education so it can encompass experiential learning that involves students interacting with people in communities facing real-world challenges to engage in problem solving.
The world is much more globally intertwined, so we fundamentally have to think about how we do business differently. Conscious capitalism, 10 or 20 years from now, may look different than today, but the underlying assumption associated with it, having a purpose beyond just profit, will continue for quite some time.
Companies are starting to move towards a greater understanding of corporate social responsibility activities and are asking how to move those activities from being tangential to the core of the business to being seamlessly integrated into the business. This is where scholarship from business school faculty can play a role: understanding how to measure some of the activities and work going on in companies and how companies can align their core processes with the aspects of conscious capitalism. We will likely see more intersectionality of the conscious capitalism efforts with the core efforts of the business.
The Goizueta Business School is well-positioned to be a leader in some of this work. For more than a decade, the faculty have been invested in laying the groundwork for some of the curriculum we now offer, and some of their research and scholarship puts us ahead of many of our competitors. The additional financial support will allow for ramping up manifestation of this work in powerful and important ways.
- Conscious Capitalism
- Ben and Jerry’s Values Statement
- TOMS Shoes Impact
- The Coca-Cola Giving Campaign
- Coca-Cola’s 5by20 Initiative: Water and Women Creating Change Together
- Whole Foods Founder John Mackey
- Business Roundtable: Purpose of a Corporation
- The Goizueta Foundation Gift
- Social Enterprise @ Goizueta
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