Let’s talk about capitalism. This is a subject I have been thinking a lot about recently. I am currently reading the book Conscious Capitalism: Liberating the Heroic Spirit of Business by John Mackey, the Founder and Co-CEO of Whole Foods Market. The truth is that capitalism has gotten a bad rap in the last few decades. In fact, there are people in the world who would love to see free capitalism come to an end. They equate it with unbridled greed, over consumption and abuse of power.
Those people are crazy . . . capitalism is awesome, right?!?!
Well, no and yes. As with everything that exists, capitalism has a light and shadow side. In the light side, free capitalism has the ability to dramatically improve quality of life by empowering people, providing education and opportunity and increasing wealth within society as a whole. Here are just a few facts Mackey shares in his book. In the past 200 years that free capitalism has been in existence, average life expectancy has more than doubled world wide; the percentage of undernourished people in the world has dropped from 26 percent to 13 percent in the last 40 years; literacy rates have sky rocketed to 84 percent of all adults being able to read; access to education has improved from 9 percent of Americans having a high school diploma in 1910 to the current level of 85 percent with 40 percent of Americans over 25 having a college degree; and the world’s extreme poverty rate (less than $1 a day) has decreased from 85 percent to 16 percent.
In its shadow side, capitalism encourages abuse of power, deceit, greed and monopolization of resources. The news is full of companies practicing the dark arts of capitalism, using the system to control, dominate and crush those that get in their way.
Unfortunately we don’t hear much about the businesses who are practicing responsible capitalism and are using their powers to make the world a better place for their customers, their employees, their investors and their communities. I have done business with many large companies and small businesses who value profit and are driven toward growth, and do it in a way that creates win/win situations for everyone concerned. Their customers, employees, investors, community and bottom line benefit from how they do business.
They give back, pay it forward, and take responsibility for their actions all in service to their higher purpose. As a result, they are very profitable. Mackey reports that a “representative sample of conscious firms outperformed the overall stock market by a ratio of 10.5:1 over a fifteen-year period, delivering more than 1,600 percent total returns when the market was up just of 150 percent for the same period.”
I think it’s time for a revolution! It’s time for the environmentally conscious, socially aware, purpose driven capitalists to step up and evolve free capitalism to the next level.
I’d really like this to be a discussion so please share your thoughts below.
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