For many people, business is seen as a hard, ruthless game. The word capitalism rarely conjures up images of kindness and goodwill. But Steve and Chutisa Bowman and Gary Douglas believe it’s not only possible, but easy, to run a business that increases your wealth and contributes to society simultaneously. Welcome to Benevolent Capitalism.
Over the past 10 years, there’s been an explosion of interest in sustainability. The way the world does business has become a burning daily issue in the current economic environment. There is growing recognition of the significant effect the activities of businesses have on the environment and on the society in which they operate. The nature of business practices are under immense scrutiny. For decades, most successful organizations have been creating their business with a single minded effort on maximizing profit without taking into account the social and environmental impact of corporate activity when making decisions. Normal business practices based on traditional capitalism models are not working anymore. The old way of measuring value is becoming irrelevant.
When we ask business leaders “Are you aware that how you respond to the challenge of sustainability will profoundly impact the planet, as well as affect the success and perhaps even the survival of your organization?” most reply ‘yes’ to the question. Many, however, have no idea what it means to respond to the challenge of sustainability. While some business executives have awakened to the truth that the future of the planet depends on them taking into account the social and environmental consequences of their decisions and actions, they are much less clear on what to do about it.
Capitalism is now at a turning point. Economies have entered a new era. We live in a time of accelerating change in the global landscape. Globalization, environmental calamities, technological advances, and other complex forces are buffeting us like never before. To prosper and thrive in the decades ahead, leaders have to think differently about the way they operate their business. Yet most leaders and managers do everything they can to keep their timeworn conventional business models in place. Too much of what’s been done here is capitalism based on “I have to get my share” and not caring if anyone else does. Unless businesses function from benevolent capitalism and from what it would take to create more in the world for everybody, not just themselves, eventually we are going to use up the planets’ resources. We are not going to create a sustainable reality, nor a sustainable planet, unless things begin to change. By sustainable, we’re not just talking “survive”, we’re talking about where there is actual growth and where reality and planet become something even greater.
The thing is, there is nothing wrong with capitalism and the willingness to make money. Capitalism, in and of itself, is value neutral. It is neither good nor bad. Capitalism has been the greatest creator of value in the world. It has steered the world economy to remarkable prosperity in the past two hundred years. It has lifted millions out of poverty and created innovations that have made society what it is. Yet it has also proved dysfunctional in substantial ways. Too many capitalists have chosen to operate with a high level of anti-consciousness and a lack of benevolence that has led to many unintentional destructive and damaging consequences for our planet and society. Anti-conscious capitalism has done a whole lot to take from the planet and consume the planet, but not a whole lot to contribute to it. At the moment, too much capitalism tends to be about enriching the few at the expense of the many. Enriching the few is not so much the problem, it is more the “at the expense of the many”.
Would you be willing to acknowledge that conventional capitalism is not working anymore? And, would you be willing to see that you can’t do capitalism from just what you can get out of it? You have to do it from how you contribute to the planet and everybody else. If you choose to align the capitalism maxim with the maxim of nature, there are still abundant possibilities and revenue to be actualized - revenue made in ways that generates a sustainable future rather than damaging the planet and endangering our future.
Business today needs a new paradigm along the lines of benevolent capitalism, because it is apparent that conventional business practices are out of balance—and we need to address this imbalance now. There is no way to avoid paying sincere consideration to benevolent capitalism: the costs of failing are simply too high. Benevolent capitalism will distinguish the vanguard from the old guard. When businesses large and small choose to govern more strategically with a conscious benevolent approach, they will transform into being more responsible, transparent, and benevolent entities. They will enrich society and maximize possibilities for the people and the planet as a result of their operations, products and services. If businesses don’t start functioning from benevolent capitalism and continue to function from using and abusing to get what they want, the end result is going to be a world that’s not liveable.
Benevolent capitalism is meant to create an entirely new system for businesses whose approach and strategy can be based upon the following: functioning from generating a sustainable future, doing NO damage, maximizing the possibilities instead of just maximizing revenue, and conscious benevolent leadership. It must be ingrained into business strategy and practices. Businesses can choose to exist at an anti-conscious level, consuming all they can, taking as much as possible from the earth and giving little back. Or they can transform themselves into ‘Benevolent Capitalists’ who create value for others and operate in a way that causes no damage and that does not use up, but rather restores and enhances, the environment. It’s just choice.
The Bottom Line
Benevolent capitalism is not about philanthropy or simply a matter of good corporate citizenship. The precept of benevolent capitalism goes beyond being “ethical”, or social and moral responsibilities. Benevolent capitalism is a form of capitalism that is driven by businesses that not only think about the short-term financial benefits, but also about building longer-term sustainable businesses that create economic, environmental and social value, that have a positive impact on society. It creates an entirely new superstructure for business and its reasons for existing. Benevolent corporations shift from capitalism based on “I have to get my share” and using and abusing to get what they want; to instead embracing a benevolent way of being, which looks at the different futures that can be created. Benevolent is not about doing kindness to others, it’s about doing no damage and creating a sustainable future for our society. In our view corporations can go beyond being responsible, ethical or accountable, and accomplish so much more if they used their core business strengths to address significant societal and environmental needs through their products and services. This is true innovation. And it starts with you.
If your target was to create a world that is sustainable, a world that would continue to grow and continue to expand far beyond what it currently is – what would you BE or DO different?
Capitalism, in and of itself, is value neutral. It is neither good nor bad. Capitalism can be a source for good when it is based on benevolence or it can be irresponsible and destructive to planet Earth if it is based on anti-consciousness and greed.
Sadly too many organizations that follow conventional capitalism tend to operate from a fixed ideas or anti-conscious concept of how things are supposed to be. They do this even if it means causing destitution and starvation, creating untold suffering for animals and the natural environment, and depleting and destroying the natural resources of our planet.
Everything capitalists do can be done from a conscious benevolent space or from an anti-conscious perspectives. Capitalism and business ventures therefore can be practiced consciously, unconsciously, or anti-consciously. When the businesses are operating from a conscious benevolent perspective, they can be an architect or a catalyst for making the world a better place as well as contribute to the greater good. On the other hand, when businesses are operating anti-consciously, they tend to be motivated by selfishness and greed, which leads to exploitation, mishandling, abuse, and even fraud or deception. Similarly, when businesses are operating unconsciously, they tend to demonstrate a precarious lack of awareness, short-sightedness of vision, and superficiality of priority.
Conventional capitalism is not working anymore. Businesses can’t do capitalism from just what they can get out of it. Business today needs a new paradigm along the lines of benevolent capitalism, because it is apparent that conventional business practices are out of balance—and we need to address this imbalance now. Capitalism must morph into being more responsible, transparent, and benevolent.
Benevolent means that you shall do as little harm as possible. You don't do anything to get a specific result, you do it to create a greater result. If you are truly benevolent, you will look at what is going to create more, not what is going to create less.
So benevolent capitalism is about seeing the kindest way, the least damage way to create something greater in the world that can create more possibilities so that we can have some kind of sustainable future.
Video by Harvard Business review - Nancy Koehn is a noted historian and the premier authority for providing analysis on the social and economic impact of entrepreneurship and on leadership in turbulent times. Her research focuses on entrepreneurial leadership and how leaders, past and present, craft lives of purpose, worth and impact.
The United States has a trash problem. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the average American produces more than 4 pounds of garbage per day.
If you are not aware of the impact you have on the environment or if you've never care about the amount of rubbish you throw away then this is an insightful and startling reminder of the amount of waste a human collects in just seven days. Check out 7 Days of Garbage photo at 'Photographic museum of humanity
Gregg Segal (californian photographer) photographed people of all ages and backgrounds, surrounded by a week's worth of their rubbish. The subjects were asked to collect and store their rubbish for a week - including recyclables. Gregg started the project because he thought it was worrisome that Americans were producing so much trash and seemed unfazed by the idea of it. "For the most part we are reliably unaware or unconcerned," he said. "We go out to eat lunch and get a to-go container. That to-go container we may use for an hour a day, but if it’s Styrofoam it’s going to be around for a million years."