Companies With A Conscience Are 10 Times More Profitable

<b class="credit">AP Photo/Austin American-Statesman, Deborah Cannon</b>John Mackey, co-CEO of Whole Foods, speaks during a session titled "Conscious Capitalism: Liberating the Heroic Spirit of Business" at the SXSW Interactive Festival in Austin on Sunday, March 10, 2013.
AP Photo/Austin American-Statesman, Deborah CannonJohn Mackey, co-CEO of Whole Foods, speaks during a session titled "Conscious Capitalism: Liberating the Heroic Spirit of Business" at the SXSW Interactive Festival in Austin on Sunday, March 10, 2013.

If you had told me, when I was attending college during the height of the Vietnam War, and the heyday of the counterculture, that several of the most inspiring days of my life would someday be spent with a group of CEOs of large companies, I would have said you were nuts. But that's exactly what I experienced last week, at a small gathering sponsored by an organization called Conscious Capitalism Inc. and held at the Esalen Institute in Big Sur, Calif.

Even today, "conscious" and "capitalism" remain unlikely bedfellows. Both are freighted words that have come to stand for fundamentally different worldviews. Capitalism is associated with individualism, personal ambition, the accumulation of wealth and power, and an identity grounded in external accomplishment. The word conscious, or more specifically consciousness, is associated with self-awareness, personal development, the greater good, and a worldview that eschews competition, hierarchy and materialism.