Conscious Capitalism

Jan 09, 2017

Through enlightened business practices, young firm leaders are embracing a world of freedom, harmony, prosperity, and compassion.

It’s energizing to be around young entrepreneurs with exciting ideas. My wife and I are honored to be mentors to a few start-ups in Reno, a delightful experience allowing us to work with and learn from a new crop of business owners, many of whom are focused on company culture as they launch and grow their enterprises.

It occurred to me that what’s old might actually be new again. At a recent mentor meeting, two colleagues told us they are starting a local chapter of Conscious Capitalism (, an organization with chapters globally.

As I’ve advised clients over the years on how best to define the culture of an organization they would be proud to be a part of, I’ve used anecdotal stories from my career and other firms I’ve worked with. But when I read The Conscious Capitalist Credo, I found a wrap-around definition I will use from this day forward as I work with clients. I’m publishing the group’s credo here in the hope you find it as helpful as I have:

We believe that business is good because it creates value, it is ethical because it is based on voluntary exchange, it is noble because it can elevate our existence, and it is heroic because it lifts people out of poverty and creates prosperity. Free enterprise capitalism is the most powerful system for social cooperation and human progress ever conceived. It is one of the most compelling ideas we humans have ever had. But we can aspire to even more.

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 galvanized by higher purposes that serve, align, and integrate the interests of all their major stakeholders. Their higher state of consciousness makes visible to them the interdependencies that exist across all stakeholders, allowing them to discover and harvest synergies from situations that otherwise seem replete with trade-offs. They have conscious leaders who are driven by service to the company’s purpose, all the people the business touches and the planet we all share together. Conscious businesses have trusting, authentic, innovative and caring cultures that make working there a source of both personal growth and professional fulfillment. They endeavor to create financial, intellectual, social, cultural, emotional, spiritual, physical, and ecological wealth for all their stakeholders.

Conscious businesses will help evolve our world so that billions of people can flourish, leading lives infused with passion, purpose, love, and creativity; a world of freedom, harmony, prosperity, and compassion.

You can find the credo on the organization’s web site which contains a wonderful and brief set of four principles of a conscious business (

  1. Higher purpose
  2. Stakeholder orientation
  3. Conscious leadership
  4. Conscious culture

These principles are consistent with the way I have tried to guide the firms I’ve worked with over the years. I wish I had been as articulate. I feel I spent my life rambling on about these things but never with such clarity and brevity.

I’ve written about Reno’s West 2nd District recently, a project I’m very proud to be involved with. As I perused the full Conscious Capitalism website, I was astounded at the consistent parallels to the way we’re pursuing this project.

Wikipedia also has some excellent citations on “Conscious Business,” including several principles we at West 2nd District have embraced from the beginning:

Do no harm:

  1. The product or service of a conscious business should not be intrinsically harmful to humans or the environment
  2. Adopt more beneficial social and environmental practices

Adopt a triple bottom line model: Aim to provide positive value in the domains of people, planet, and profit:

  1. People: Here are some trends conscious businesses are pursuing:
  2. Profit is what distinguishes a business from a general social enterprise. How much is too much, where does it go?
    1. The forming of wellness affirming workplace cultures
    2. Improved employee benefits programs
    3. Use of fair trade materials for manufacture or sale
    4. Assistance to communities who supply raw materials and who manufacture materials or products
    5. Local community outreach programs
  3. Planet: Trends include:
    1. Robust recycling programs
    2. Building “green” or “zero-impact” workplace facilities
    3. Using solar or wind energy in the workplace
    4. Purchasing materials from organic or sustainable farmers
    5. Purchasing renewable and sustainable materials
    6. Working with environmentally conscious distributers to adopt better environmental practices
    7. Adopting sustainable product packaging

Does this sound like your enterprise today? Would your stakeholders (employees, contractors, city officials, clients) respond favorably and work more effectively with you and your community if you adopted these principles? In my experience at Gensler and now on the Reno West 2nd District project, I’ve seen that these principles in action are good for business and they receive high praise and very positive responses from stakeholders. It’s gratifying to know many of today’s young entrepreneurs see these principles as embodying the way they want to build and conduct their businesses. They’re ahead of the game out of the chute.

Ed Friedrichs, FAIA, FIIDA, is a consultant with Zweig Group and the former CEO and president of Gensler. Contact him at

This article is from issue 1179 of The Zweig Letter. Interested in more management advice every week from Mark Zweig, the Zweig Group team, and a talented list of other guest writers? Click here to subscribe or get a free trial of The Zweig Letter.

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