There is no contradiction between success and doing no damage


"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. And if you're truly benevolent, you will look at what's going to create more, not what's going to create less.

In business, there is not a contradiction between success and doing no damage; it is not an either-or proposition. Instead, ‘doing no damage’ and profitability must be among the principles by which companies make choices.

So, benevolent capitalism is about seeing the kindest way, the least damaging way, to create something greater in the world. It can create more possibilities so that we can have some kind of sustainable future.

A sustainable future should be one that can grow and expand on its own that it doesn't require us, but it doesn't abuse us, either. And a sustainable future is one in which what we create and what we do opens a door to a level of possibility in the world that allows the Earth to generate itself, create itself. It is where it allows us to benefit by what it creates and generates, not by what we can take from it, which is where we've sort of gotten to with capitalism now. What can we take to get more, rather than what can the universe contribute to us that will give us more.

In the beginning, Capitalism was developed as a result of people trying to create more. Like, the railroad was a way of increasing the quickness and the system by which people were catapulted from one place to another. What they found is that with developing railroads, they could actually develop a faster and quicker way to create something, to create a change.

And if we looked at capitalism as a source for the creation of change instead of as a source for lining our pockets and creating us as greater than, or different than, or richer than; we might actually create a place in which the sustainability of the future is actually real.

You just take the railroad as an example. All of that was developed in order to move people rapidly from one location to another. Then they discovered that, "Oh, you could move cargo one place to another rapidly as well." And then you could also move other things. And out of the creation of the railroad system, you actually developed different kinds of jobs, different kinds of capacities for people.

People innovated and created as a result of it. And the thing about capitalism, it is highly innovative and highly creative. What if we were willing to create capitalism from what the possibilities are, rather than how much profit can I make. Where capitalism has become vilified is on the idea that it's about getting profit, or it's only the profit that counts, the bottom line that counts.

In our view, business leaders must acknowledge that the tendency to conform to contextual reality is deeply ingrained and they must be willing to become aware of those tendencies.

In reality, any company is better off creating synergies between bottom-line and the ‘doing no damage’ principle. According to Herman Daly’s views on economic cosmology – “the economy must be placed squarely inside the global ecosystem, instead of the other way around” and “the economic sub-system needs to practice more ‘ecological laissez faire’ to keep a large part of the earth ecosystem in nature”.

Herman Edward Daly is an American economist-turned-ecovisionary whose works established ecological economics as a discipline. He succeeded in getting the World Bank to take notice of the environment in its policies and programs. Daly believes that mainstream economics is unlikely to change until a new generation arises; armed with a pre-analytic vision that places the economy within physical and ecological limitations.

Herman Daly also stated that to be sustainable, a society needs to meet three conditions:

  1. Its rate of use of renewable resources must not exceed their rates of regeneration
  2. Its rates of use of non-renewable resources must not exceed the rate at which sustainable renewable substitutes are develop
  3.  Its rate of pollution emissions must not exceed the assimilative capacity of the environment

In conventional business viewpoints, true success where you can create something greater while doing no damage,  seems impossible. What if you knew differently? What are you and your business creating that makes it a more sustainable world?