What is a Socially Conscious Business?
With Meghan French Dunbar
What’s your favorite company? It’s safe to say that most people have a few go-to brands they come back to time and time again. Would you be surprised to learn that most people’s favorite companies are socially conscious businesses?
These businesses take ownership over the impact they have on the planet and are built around better-for-the-world values that guide business leaders and employees to make positive change in their field. So, maybe it’s not too much of a surprise these companies are performing ten times better than their competitors.
Customers have the power to vote with each dollar spent, and their votes are driving more and more businesses to be truly socially responsible. And, in fact, 66% of consumers are willing to pay more for a product if the company supports a social or environmental cause, and 70% of millennial consumers will stop supporting businesses that don’t align with their personal beliefs.
On the Social Entrepreneurship and Innovation podcast, Cory interviewed our first ever returning guest, Meghan French Dunbar. You may remember her from our episode on Conscious Company Media. She’s now flying solo and using her extensive background in conscious business to help entrepreneurs, especially women, build companies that are impactful in creating positive change in our communities.
What is a “Conscious Business?” A Definition
At its core, a conscious business is one that intends to have a positive impact on the world for both people and the planet. To accomplish this, Meghan narrowed it down to three key components that are essential when analyzing truly conscious businesses.
A conscious business is led by someone who embodies and executes the mission for the company in a sustainable manner, with transparency. In the business world, leadership has to be empathetic, possess emotional mastery, and have unflinching integrity in the face of opposition. Leadership development and a willingness to learn at the C-Suite level is a crucial element for a conscious business to thrive.
As conscious businesses grow, they are able to expand their environmental goals and make an increasingly positive impact on the planet. To achieve this growth, conscious businesses must perform not only for their shareholders, but for their community, environment, and employees. Each of these essential stakeholders must play a role to keep businesses aware of how they affect the world around them, strategically directed toward positive impact at each step, and committed to offsetting and eliminating any harm they cause.
Strong team building
Any human resources professional can explain that it’s harder to recruit talented people for companies with poor employee retention rates. So, how do you build that retention? Well, employees (and customers for that matter) are more likely to support companies aligned with their own ethos. Employees who are treated well and have a higher mission beyond a paycheck perform better in the workplace, are generally more engaged, and tend to stay with the same company longer. These employees value authentic communication and transparent business leaders who utilize constructive negotiation. This is a core tenet of conscious business.
Embedded within each facet of a conscious business is the shared belief that there is a higher purpose than profit. While we know for-profit businesses need profit to exist, the way profit is critical to the social responsibility of a business.
Before even approaching product development or marketing, founders need to ask, what is the purpose of this business? Will this business retain the solidarity of its community? Will the practice of business in this field be beneficial to all parties?
Another concept you might hear in this space is “conscious capitalism.” This is the basic belief that acknowledges the evolution of capitalism and the potential for business to elevate humanity through well-executed practices. Instead of redefining what capitalism is and substantially changing it, conscious capitalism builds on what is successful about capitalism and simply incorporates elements like higher purpose, stakeholder orientation, conscious leadership, and conscious culture—all practices that benefit human beings and the planet we live on.
As concern for the environment grows and companies are being pushed to be more sustainable in their industries, the number of social entrepreneurs and conscious businesses are growing. To name a few: Badger is one of the many companies fighting climate change, while Jeremy Lang at Pela invented entirely new, eco-friendly materials for plastic electronic accessories (like their compostable phone case). Bodhi Surf & Yoga built a business around responsible tourism, strengthening the fight to save our oceans with each guest who visits them. If you want more, check out the B Corp community, leading the movement to use business as a force for good.
Supporting conscious businesses has a ripple effect of benefits. By purchasing these products as a conscious consumer, you’re feeding a system in which conscious businesses can effectively compete in their respective industries. You’re also ensuring that they can continue to do the incredible work they’re doing to benefit workers and the environment.
Building and running a conscious business requires more conscientious decision making and an uncompromising commitment to the mission for good, and the reward is the creation of a movement. The largest corporations we can all list off have benefitted from a capitalist system that rewarded unconscious business: the effects of which we are seeing throughout the world. Unconscious businesses put profits first, and environment and community are left as an afterthought, if considered at all. Mega-brands like these have had exceptional performance and growth that comes at the expense of the planet and people that allow them to get where they are.
Fortunately for all of us, conscious businesses are showing us that it is possible for business to operate without causing the destruction of the world around it—even that the expectation should be that businesses should have a positive impact, not just not a negative one! Building the community of conscious businesses is the only way to retain the dignity of each person affected by operations and reshape the typical model into one that is truly sustainable.
Meghan French Dunbar
Former co-founder and CEO of the first publications on conscious business, Conscious Company Media, Meghan French Dunbar has a history of inspiring others to have a meaningful impact through business.
Meghan most recently went solo and developed a venture that encapsulates all she has to offer the business sector, especially as it impacts women. Her new company, meganfrenchdunbar.com, offers courses and resources for social entrepreneurs looking to reinvigorate their businesses or create a business that focuses on the triple bottom line: people, planet, profit.
Meghan draws on her experience from the nonprofit sector, being a CEO, and working with thousands of impact-driven entrepreneurs to encourage purposeful business decisions. Her passion and unwavering commitment to building opportunities for conscious businesses to thrive is unmatched in the industry.
“It’s about how to maximize the potential of your business. How to really spur innovation, how to set your business up for success.”
Getting Started with Building a Socially Conscious Business
Meghan had a few recommendations on how to maximize your business’s potential for socially conscious practices that prioritize all stakeholders.
- Do the B Corp Impact Assessment. This free tool will set you up with a baseline to understand exactly where you need to be with responsible practices. To answer all your questions prior to starting, check out our post on the B Impact Assessment based on our experience going through the process.
- Immerse yourself in the world of conscious businesses by reading books, listening to podcasts, and viewing examples of conscious businesses that are in the space. If you need a place to start, here’s our social entrepreneurship book list. Of course, the guests on our Social Entrepreneurship & Innovation Podcast always leave us with insight and updates worth checking up on as well.
- For some guiding principles and assistance in your company’s journey to conscious business, check out Meghan’s Conscious Business 101 Workshop. This four-part series explores everything you need to know about launching a business that addresses all elements of responsibility.
Closing: Tangible Takeaways and Asking Tough Questions
Conscious businesses and businesses led by purpose aren’t beneficial just for consumers, they also create enriching environments for workers, yield high profits, and add value to the world. In any form, better-for-the-world business practices can enhance your company and widen your customer base.
Conscious businesses touch every industry from conscious coffee companies, to marketing services, wealth management services, socially responsible banks, tourism, and everything in between. Next time you need a new product, take a beat to double-check your expectations. You can choose to support companies on board with the new purpose of business: to support and engage the environment and humanity.
Additional Resources & Links Mentioned from the Episode:
- Meghan on Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn
- Conscious Business 101
- Conscious Company Media
- Justin Rosenstein, Asana
- Eileen Fisher, Eileen Fisher
- Kevin Rutherford, Nuun
- Southwest Airlines
- Great Places to Work
- 1% for the Planet
- Firms of Endearment by Raj Sisodia, Jag Sheth, & David B. Wolfe
- Conscious Capitalism by John Mackey & Raj Sisodia
- Start with Why by Simon Sinek
Our Latest Episodes & Articles:
The Regenerative Business: Redesigning Work & Cultivating Human Potential With Carol Sanford of The Carol Sanford Institute
The Regenerative Business: Redesigning Work & Cultivating Human PotentialWith Carol Sanford of The Carol Sanford InstituteSubscribe:Subscribe:egenerative medicine, regenerative design, regenerative therapy, regenerative agriculture, and yes,...
A Complete Guide to Biodynamic WineWine quality is determined from the ground up, and the priorities of biodynamic wine mirror that reality with its heart in the soil and faith in the earth. And that faith is warranted! Agriculture has sustained civilizations over...
Why Plastic Straws SUCK with Emma Rose Cohen, Founder & CEO of Final StrawSubscribe:Subscribe:n 2018, an old foe of the environmental movement was put on the public enemy list: plastic straws. Across social media platforms,...
How is Wine Made? The Step-by-Step Behind your Favorite BottlesBefore electricity, before gunpowder, before the alphabet, before the wheel; before all of it, there was wine. Why? Well, I like to believe it's because our ancestors know how to prioritize. More likely,...
How to Make a Difference in the World: Lessons Learned from Our Top 10 Podcast Episodes of 2020Want the audio version of this post? Listen to part 1 & 2 here: Subscribe:Subscribe:I’ve become a student in ‘making a difference in the world’ as a product of hosting...
What Could the Future of Schools Look Like?with Ted Dintersmith of What School Could BeSubscribe:Subscribe:ake a moment to think back to your high school days. What was the most valuable lesson you learned in school? Was it...
How to Choose Good WineAs your friendly neighborhood wine professional will tell you, great wine is made in the vineyard. Without quality grapes, making the kind of different wines conscious consumers crave is just about impossible. So first and foremost, wine lovers...
12 Gifts that Give Back: Gifts that Provide Even More Reason to Celebrate!This holiday season, why not spread a little holiday cheer to an even wider audience than just your giftee. This list of holiday gift ideas are not only gifts people will actually want, but they...
The Best Patagonia Jackets: Your Guide to the Best of the BestI'm a big fan of superlatives. The biggest, the greatest, the coziest—all a part of my daily lexicon. As you could imagine, the union of my enthusiasm for the most and the Patagonia line of jackets feels...