Conscious Capitalism: Bringing Love to Business

Is it possible to build a business on love and care? That was the premise of the fourth annual conference on Conscious Capitalism held last May in Boston.

Love and business in the same sentence might sound a bit sappy, but far from it. Authors Sisodia, Wolfe and Sheth in the book Firms of Endearment researched hundreds of companies truly loved by all who come in contact with them and showed that they outperformed S&P 500 firms 1111% to 123% over the last ten years.

Many business people consider “love” to be a personal matter, certainly nothing that belongs in the corporation. Yet love forms the foundation of all human interactions. Without love, there is no teamwork, no leadership, no real commitment to customer service.

The term Firm of Endearment is a metaphor standing for companies that operate with the principle of stakeholder integration in mind. They strive to endear themselves not only to shareholders but to all stakeholders (customers, employees, suppliers, environmentalists and the community) and in the process outperform non-firms of endearment in shareholder wealth. They pay their employees very well, provide great value to customers, have thriving suppliers and achieve great returns for investors.

There are four characteristics that distinguish a Firm of Endearment or Conscious Business. The first is that they are driven by a higher purpose that transcends profit maximization. A compelling sense of purpose creates an extraordinary degree of engagement for all stakeholders and catalyzes tremendous organizational energy. As the philosopher Frederick Nietzsche said, he how has a why can bear almost any how.

Stakeholder orientation is the second characteristic. During the conference, moving stories were shared that exemplify this principle in action. One such story was from John Mackey, founder and co-CEO of Whole Foods. In 1981, Austin experienced its worst flood in 100 years. At that time, Whole Foods had only one store, in that city, which was now under eight feet of water. The flood literally wiped them out, with no savings, insurance or warehoused inventory. Yet something unexpected happen: customers showed up with buckets and mops to help salvage the store, team members worked for free, suppliers offered to resupply on credit, investors made additional investments, the bank loaned additional money. The love from the community saved Whole Foods and shaped the essence of what Whole Foods is today. As John Mackey says, stakeholders embody the heart, soul and lifeblood of an enterprise.

Finally, firms of endearment are led by conscious leaders and create a conscious culture where trust, authenticity, care, transparency, integrity, learning and empowerment flourish. How to develop conscious leaders and cultures was something we delved into on day 2 of the conference. Axialent led a workshop demonstrating with real life examples from the audience the practice of becoming a Firm of Endearment –how to develop the mindsets and the skills to shape a different culture.

It was inspiring to see like-minded people passionate about bringing love to business. Love as an expression of unconditional commitment to the growth of other human beings (employees, customers, suppliers, investors, the community). Love as a commitment to create value through products and services that will fulfill the needs of others, and develop and express your highest self in the process. As we say at Axialent, being a conscious business is good business.


About the author

Richi is Axialent’s Managing Director and Chief Culture Officer. He is a seasoned executive with more than 20 years in global organizations and extensive experience in leadership development, organizational effectiveness, and the corporate world. Read more>



9 thoughts on “Conscious Capitalism: Bringing Love to Business

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  1. I know that Conscious Capitalism is a philosophy and new way of thinking about business: deeper purpose that transcends profit, adoption of stakeholder theory, conscious culture and conscious leaders. In regards to the characteristics of a conscious business..what are they?

  2. I love the post! From my point of view and since I’ve been learning from Conscious Business, in order to bring love to business, first you have to bring love to yourself and to the people who work with, your team. It is not an easy task, but everybody can afford that if he/she wants. Then, you will be ready to be driven by a higher purpose. Have a great journey

    1. Yes – I agree! As Fred Kofman mentions in his book, these skills are “common sense, but not common practice.” They are easy to understand as they seem straightforward, but they are hard to implement. They confront deep-rooted beliefs we hold about ourselves, and others. But it is worth the challenge!

      1. When I speak about CB concepts and tools I will usually say “they are deceptively simple”, meaning “simple not easy”. This makes it tricky in implementation; people believe for example they already know how to enter a conversation as a learner, with a curious mind, while they are experienced by others as completely certain and arrogant..Love, apape and connection go well with curiosity and wonder and dissonate with certainty and self-righteousness.

  3. Great subject to launch this blog! There were times where people thought of their companies’ as their second homes and thought of a lifetime career with “the” company. Those days are long gone, and after several fads and trends, we often find ourselves complaining about Generation-Y and disengagement. A firm that engages people beyond money and motivational perks, that becomes more than just a job but a way to serve a higher purpose and were each employee feels a partner of the business, undoubtedly will keep the best employees, were they’re Gen-Y-ers or not. Considering that the people factor is the main differentiator in most businesses today, that sounds to me like a great “hard” differentiator for such a company!
    I hope to see many other good posts around here! Thanks.

  4. Following introduction let me offer an example of practice.

    Consider the following statement:

    “There is no substitute for a loving family environment for growing children.”

    It will be found in a business plan written in 2006, proposing a strategy for childcare reform which will eliminate all remaining childcare institutions and this will lead to impact and influence.

    My question is. Where are the conscious businesses who might help?

    1. It was this post and other conversations that had me go back to the origins of our social business model and look up the influences on which it was based. Erich From, was among them:

      “Love of the helpless, the poor and the stranger, are the beginning of brotherly love. To love ones flesh and blood is no achievement. The animal loves its young and cares for them. Only in the love of those who do not serve a purpose, does love begin to unfold. Compassion implies the element of knowledge and identification. “

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