Conscious Capitalism


New Year, New Business Principles

Regular Catalyst contributor and Labour lawyer, Marleen Potgieter, is seeing a new trend at the outset of 2016, built around the principles of Conscious Capitalism. She says this radical new way of creating an optimal work environment ensures that staff thrive, with the knock-on effect of supporting business growth. “If more companies adopted these principles, I’d have a lot less work,” she said, wryly.

From her perspective, the growth of Conscious Capitalism is a welcome international trend, and one that South Africa will benefit from greatly. Briefly defined, Conscious Capitalism builds on the foundations of Capitalism – voluntary exchange, entrepreneurship, competition, freedom to trade and the rule of law. These are essential to a healthy functioning economy, as are the elements that  relate specifically to the ‘Conscious’ component, namely trust, compassion, collaboration and value creation.

Love and Care

Marleen explains that this movement examines the principles of how to make money in a conscious way, one that contributes to making the world a better place. “This involves, believe it or not, operating from a position of ‘love’ and ‘care’. It requires management to abandon the traditional gung-ho approach, to embrace a new paradigm in an open-hearted way, and to think out the box. If you work to develop your team’s emotional intelligence, you have a fabulous chance to inject a radical new energy into every aspect of the business,” she said.

To deepen your grasp of this topic, she recommends as essential reading Firms of Endearment: How World-Class Companies Profit from Passion and Purpose by Sisodia, Sheth and Wolfe, who discovered that companies like Timberland, Google and SW Airlines outperformed standard Fortune 500 companies by as much as 1600% over a fifteen year period. These firms manage their businesses on an ethical level. They build on five different pillars, one of which is employee relations. Size is no barrier to showing you care for your employees, state the authors.

“Employers who pay in kind – as well as in salaries – simply do better. Consider the effect of an employer’s compassion towards a staff member who is not productive because they’re struggling with an issue at home. If you can afford to say, ‘You don’t look so well; go home and sort it out…’ the result is a staff member who can return to work with enhanced functioning and appreciation for the humanity they’ve been shown,” said Marleen.

book social media book unfair discriminationResearch shows that firms who care for their staff get a much bigger return on their investment. She said, “People work harder for companies like that. This investment in staff wellbeing buys you loyalty and productivity. Gone are the days of prescriptive management. When you genuinely focus on your employees’ wellbeing, you directly influence their performance in a positive way.”

Perhaps you’re thinking to yourself: ‘I don’t have the time to do this, things are so busy already’. Marleen challenges that idea: “The time you take to show you care buys you time later… you’ll wish you’d done so from the beginning!”


Christmas Quarrels and Conflict ManagementMarleen Potgieter is the author of Social Media and Employment Law and co-author of Unfair Discrimination in the Workplace, published by Juta Law. Follow her on Twitter (@MarleenRing) and Facebook, or visit her website, Equity Works.