Last week Retail Oasis attended the annual summit held by Conscious Capitalism Australia.

The day showcased different thinking around leadership, culture, stakeholder integration and higher purpose.

In simple terms, conscious capitalism is corporate social responsibility 2.0.

The key tenet of the philosophy resides in the impact that enterprise has on all stakeholders. Rather than the shareholder being the key driver of all business decisions, conscious capitalism considers the whole business ecosystem from supply chain through to the environment and right down to the employees and wider society.



At the end of the conference, delegates were left with more questions than answers (which was maybe the whole idea): what is my purpose, who is my farmer, what is my wellness plan, where do I fit within the culture of my business, what leadership qualities do I have? This was, of course, the aim of the conference.

The Conscious Capitalism movement challenges business leaders to re-think why their organizations exist and to acknowledge their companies’ roles in the interdependent global marketplace.  Many of today’s largest corporations are already demonstrating behaviours consistent with conscious capitalism.

For me, three compelling takeaways from the conference came from three major themes: trust, people and corporate DNA.

  1. Trust : “The worst thing about being lied to is knowing that you weren’t worth the truth”.  It’s an empowering thought covering both people as employee and customers. There are obvious movements towards radical openness; to no longer necessarily be perfect, but simply having an honest conversation. In 2010, Patagonia was accused by animal rights groups of sourcing down from live birds, as well as birds reared for foie gras production, their discovery and following actions for change are well documented pdownm1 more info here


  1. People as the primary purpose:  The way you individually think about a product could challenge your perceptions about what goes into making and producing that product; or even the way that business is run. For the farmer Charlie Arnott, that realization helped formulate his business: away from the archetypal business model ‘that which produces a commodity’ to the much more intimate concept of ‘growing food for people’. That slight adjustment in thinking has changed the way he does business and has further inspired him to create the movement ‘Who’s your farmer?’1779991                      


Furthering the thinking within leadership was the realisation of customers and employees as people. Raj Sisodia, co-author of Concious Capitalism tapped into the leadership behaviors of those who succeed by having a people centered purpose. “Being good stewards of the lives entrusted to them as well as product purpose” – acknowledges that everyone is someone’s precious child worthy of our attention.


  1. Engrained within the DNA of a business: It is easy to come up with a purpose and a defined set of business values; the difficulty comes in sticking to that guiding purpose when challenges arise. A favourite case study comes from the example set by G-diapers , a company born out of the founder’s desire to reduce waste in the nappy category space. As a start-up, the business became torn between the opportunity to move forward verses the guiding principles on which the business was founded (for example onsite childcare and becoming a B-corp accredited business). In the end, they took a step backwards and derailed the company for 2 years to ensure fulfilment of what they describe as the DNA of their company.                                                       gdiapers_starter_kit

As a society we’re moving away from pure material status to status that’s defined by what you do with what you have; naturally these same values are being nurtured within businesses, not doing good for the sake of something good but good for its own. As demonstrated throughout the day this idea of intrinsic value or fully altruistic business behaviors doesn’t have to conflict with the business interest.