Leader in Conscious Capitalism Speaks on Campus

Raj Sisodia with Mara Riemer Goldstein '88, Hannah Goldstein '16 & Stepheny Kotzen Riemer '65

Dr. Sisodia, founder and chairman of the Conscious Capitalism Institute, said he had never before been asked to speak to a group as young as middle school students, but from their questions, it was clear his message resonated even among those a decade away from entering the workforce. After all, young teens are already stakeholders in our capitalist system; they are brand-aware consumers, their family members are employees, owners and investors, and corporations shape their physical and media environments.

The message of conscious capitalism is simple: companies that do good do better – both on their balance sheets and by society. It’s a win-win proposition rather than a zero sum game.

The “firms of endearment” that Dr. Sisodia profiled in his book of the same name (Whole Foods, Costco and New Balance to name a few) are about nine times more profitable than their industry peers because they operate with a stakeholder approach. This awareness of a company’s broader impact on society, which Professor Sisodia compared to the wake of a ship, is what defines conscious capitalism, along with a sense of working toward a higher purpose. Once business leaders absorb the message that their profits will likely increase if they adopt a stakeholder approach, Professor Sisodia is confident that capitalism can earn back the people’s trust and respect.

The need for this turnaround is urgent; even before the current economic crisis, 90% of Americans said they distrusted business and that big companies have too much influence, Dr. Sisodia stated (Harris poll). These negative perceptions matter greatly, he said, because they foster a corrosive cynicism that undermines how future generations of workers, owners and investors – like the students in his audience – will conduct themselves in their own careers.

Dr. Sisodia said than when he first came to the U.S., he was puzzled by the “TGIF” mentality that pervades our society. He believes that adopting conscious capitalism may ultimately enable people to enjoy their work more, possibly even to the extent that the acronym becomes TGIT – “Thank God, It’s Today!”

As a professor of marketing at Bentley’s graduate business school, Dr. Sisodia stands squarely in the pro-business camp; he views business and markets, not government, as the appropriate means of creating opportunities for people and society to prosper. But he defines wealth creation in broader, almost spiritual, terms to include social, cultural and intellectual capital.

He concluded with Ghandi’s familiar charge to “be the change you want to see in the world” and a recommendation that students read Man’s Search for Meaning (Viktor Frankl) to better understand the power of purpose in living and working.

The 2010 Gilbert and Marcia Kotzen Lecture was made possible by the Riemer and Goldstein families. The Kotzen Lecture is designed to bring together all members of the BCDS community to discuss issues of social justice.

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