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The win-win: investing in conscious capitalism

Choosing a movie on Netflix is hard. It’s a struggle to find something you and your friend haven’t seen before—something you can both agree on. It usually results in spending a minimum of forty-five minutes scouring the depths of Netflix because you want to watch a thriller while your friend wants to watch a comedy. By the end of it, you’re ready to strangle each other and you’ve started to reconsider your taste in friends.

Then you remember there are dozens of apps that can help you find the perfect movie. Netflix Roulette takes the decision-making out of your hands, What is on Netflix finds the best-ranked movies for you, and Flixlist integrates Rotten Tomatoes ratings so you can decide if a movie is worth watching. Your biggest problem of the week? Solved. Your friend? Saved from being strangled. All thanks to brilliant minds investing in the first world problems we have the luxury to complain about.

But aren’t there more important matters at stake in the world? We’re overdue with how we put our most brilliant people to work (on things other than Netflix), and how we create conscious businesses that strive for a higher purpose from the ground up—not as an afterthought. Who says we can’t have our cake and eat it too? While there are some cutting edge businesses changing the world for the better, they are the exceptions when they should be the norm.

To infinity and beyond

Many startups and smaller companies operate their core mission in a more mindful manner. And while it can be difficult for established brands to rethink their business model, those with power and influence have taken initiative to make change. Think Patagonia and their record-breaking Black Friday donations, Whole Foods Market and their vision of environmental care and healthy eating, and The Container Store and their employee-first model.

What do these businesses have in common? They go to infinity and beyond by practicing conscious capitalism—they do what seems impossible. According to Whole Foods' John Mackey and researcher Raj Sisodia, “Conscious capitalism is an emerging philosophy based on the belief that businesses can enhance corporate performance while simultaneously improving the quality of life for all stakeholders.”

Simple acts of mindfulness can help break up the minutiae of everyday life and help us to think of the bigger picture. How do our decisions impact the communities we operate in, or even the ones we don’t? It’s time to rethink the world we live in.

Simple acts of mindfulness can help break up the minutiae of everyday life and help us to think of the bigger picture.

A broken world

During the Cold War, French demographer Alfred Sauvy broke the world into three. The First World consisted of the U.S., Western Europe, and their allies. The Second World included the Soviet Union, China, and Cuba. Unaligned countries were considered a part of the Third World.

Since then, the term

But as anthropologist Paul Farmer observed, “[The First World] has pockets of deep urban and rural poverty.” In reality, the so-called First World is a study in affluent and impoverished contrasts. One can’t help but ask: Why do we focus so much of our technological power and money on solving “first world problems,” like picking a movie on Netflix, when there are very real problems within the First World (and the entire world), such as growing learning gaps and homelessness?

The real reason might have to do with the fact that many of us, myself included, live in a self-contained bubble where money circulates around solving problems such as not wanting to go to the grocery store because it’s raining outside (Thanks, Instacart). We focus on solving issues like what to watch on Netflix because there are people who can afford these services—there is a market for these “problems” in certain microcosms of the world.

We focus on solving issues like what to watch on Netflix because there are people who can afford these services—there is a market for these “problems” in certain microcosms of the world.

So how can we create a market for more serious problems, for issues where money doesn’t necessarily circulate? The answer starts with more mindful, conscious capitalism.

Being mindful about capitalism

Conscious capitalism goes beyond corporate social responsibility (CSR), and is usually a very deliberate and proactive action. With conscious capitalism, businesses place humanity at their core; their actions, rather than being reactive, are internally driven and focus on people before products. Companies like Patagonia and Whole Foods put emphasis on aligning corporate values with societal values through conscious culture and conscious leaders.

But why should businesses care about conscious capitalism? Besides improving the communities businesses operate in, conscious capitalism makes for happier employees and more loyal customers. It can result in better customer experiences, sustained growth, more engaged employees and less turnover, as well as higher profits. In a report commissioned by Zendesk, Union + Webster found that “77 percent of consumers prefer to purchase from companies that demonstrate community responsibility.” What’s more, the study found that consumers are willing to pay five percent or 10 percent more to purchase from these companies over others.” It makes sense.

Especially when product quality is the same, if not better.

Conscious capitalism helps cultivate a sense of purpose and pride—a culture that builds for the long-term, with sustainability and humanity in mind. Becoming a conscious capitalist isn’t an easy path, but it will benefit your business and, more importantly, elevate humanity. A win-win for all.