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Saturday, March 2, 2013

Conscious Capitalism

A kinder, gentler, capitalism
“Capitalism is unquestionably the greatest system for innovation and social cooperation that has ever existed.” Those words, written by John Mackey and Raj Sisodia are powerful, thought provoking and incredibly important. It’s hard to believe they came from that long-haired, long-bearded hippie from the 70’s, John Mackey.  Or should I say former long-haired, long-bearded hippie since it's been about 40 years and Mackey's hair and clean shaven face were transformed a time long ago.

In their book, Conscious Capitalism, Mackey explains how he sold-out and abandoned his liberal progressive roots and became just another Bourgeois capitalist pig (shake head in shame.) The End. Well, that’s not exactly the way it happened nor is it the end by any stretch.

Mackey is the co-founder of Whole Foods Market or, Whole Paycheck as I like to call it. Whole Foods and I are like an old married couple. I love them for what they’ve brought to my life: the availability and variety of a multitude of healthy foods (assuming I make the right choices), and an entire way of life based on natural living. They’ve also overdrawn my bank account on more than one occasion so the resentment, at times, has run high. You could imagine what went through my mind when I saw a kiosk in the middle of the store displaying a stack of these books that likely explained how this offense has come to be perpetrated against me. Nevertheless, I couldn’t imagine my life without Whole Foods. The company’s very existence is an important part of my life.  It feels strange to say that but it is true.

In this book that Mackey has co-authored with businessman, author, co-founder and trustee of The Conscious Capitalism Institute, Raj Sisodia, the history and concept of modern capitalism and its value to today’s society is examined, studied, and revered?  Yes, even that. But that’s the beauty of Conscious Capitalism. The book, the concept, the institute-it’s the story of how "capitalism as we know it, can serve as a values-based system of doing business that can contribute to humankind in more tangible ways than one would ever think possible."  In the book, they demonstrate how they discovered that conscious capitalism can “change the way business is thought about, taught, and practiced.

The book opens with Mackey telling the story of a horrible flood that ruined the very first Whole Foods Market in Austin, TX and how the entire community came together to help him rebuild and re-establish his business. In the process, stakeholders also contributed what they could, forging friendships that 30 years later, still exist in a meaningful way. It was upon this act of kindness that Mackey built his natural empire and it remains one of the core values of his business philosophy.

The economic, political and social issues tackled in the book are understated in their ability to teach without taking political sides and question without disrespect. It’s a terrific guide to understanding where we’ve come from and how to create a future where communities are well-served and “profit” is not a dirty word.

Very readable, very interesting, and important. Read it and learn.

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