«Big Sur, California, March 24 - 27, 2013 CONFERENCE SUMMARY | 2 Executive Summary In March 2013 a number of CEOs, top executives, and social ...»
Even a brief presentation from Twist would be incomplete without a discussion of how outdated mindsets limit our thinking about what is possible. Although coming from a different perspective than Steve McIntosh and Carter Phipps, Twist actually shares a similar aspiration: to make the environmental movement more effective. But where McIntosh and Phipps emphasize getting postmodernist environmentalists to appreciate modernist capitalism, Twist emphasizes how to liberate that same group from the “scarcity mindset.” As Twist sees it, the environmental movement is stuck in the view that there is not enough to go around on planet earth and some will always be left out. But Twist firmly challenged this view, which she thinks is rooted in the “more is better” attitude that is so prevalent in America. As she put it, “There are three toxic myths: There’s not enough. More is better. And that’s just the way it is.” In separate but ultimately complementary ways, both Conscious Capitalism and conscious philanthropy reject these myths and provide positive solutions to counter-act them.
Lastly, Twist highlighted the long-enduring inspiration she has received from the unique polymath Buckminster Fuller, whom she first met in 1976. As Fuller observed decades ago, during the twentieth century humanity unwittingly passed a critical threshold whereby our basic production practices are so efficient that there is enough for everyone to live a happy and fulfilled life. Fuller’s fundamental optimism maintained that ephemeralization is the overall direction of human cultural evolution. This means that as we design our production, architectural, and agricultural processes with more intelligence, we will reduce the amount of material input into each of them. We will literally live lighter lives. In addition, Fuller speculated that we are simultaneously moving into a win-win worldview in which there will be enough for everyone to prosper without taking away from others (in contrast to the win-lose worldview in which some will always lose or suffer). What Fuller prophesized decades ago is now being realized by Conscious Capitalists and businesses, like those convened at this conference. With this in mind, Twist’s final observation was that the emerging vision of Conscious Capitalism is much more than a change to its assumptions; it constitutes its own transformation.
Following Twist, Blake Mycoskie narrated the amazing story of TOMS shoes, which is a whole new way of incorporating giving in a for-profit business that is innovative, simple to understand and yet extremely powerful for both social impact and business success. He called the approach One for One—one pair of shoes to a child in need for every pair you buy. What makes this new model of convergence of capitalism and philanthropy work? Will it stay and grow?
I went to Argentina in 2006 on a vacation to learn polo. I met some women in a café. They talked about how they were collecting used shoes to give to children who needed them just to meet the dress code in school. I had not been involved in philanthropy up to that time.
After talking to them, I wanted to help. I wanted to give shoes in a sustainable way. So, I came up with the idea that for every pair we sell, we will give a pair to a kid in Argentina. The desire to do the model as one-for-one is that it’s easy to keep track of. In hindsight, this simple model is what has made us successful. Consumers feel there is a direct impact from their purchase. My spontaneous desire to give; it was so much fun; it was joyful; I loved it. After reading John Mackey’s and Raj Sisodia’s book Conscious Capitalism, I saw that this is our model at TOMS. I realized I could have written this book myself. All of these tenets have been integral to the success of TOMS.
Why Giving is an Effective Business Strategy: While giving feels really good, it is also an effective business strategy. It makes a lot of sense, the same way Conscious Capitalism makes a lot of sense.
Let me describe three ways we built the business through giving and why it allowed us to outperform most startups in the last six years.
First, when you incorporate giving into your business, your customers become your marketers. We spend very little money on advertising and marketing. We have never done any traditional advertising since we’ve started. We’ve done a little online marketing.
But your customers are your evangelists. They have a great desire to tell your story. The same way that Doug’s wife was telling him before he came to Esalen [She bought some TOMS shoes a few weeks before the Esalen conference.]. Millions of customers have done this.
We put videos on YouTube where millions of views happen, and that’s much more effective than a Super Bowl advertisement. And it didn’t cost us anything but shooting the video. So, your customers become your marketers when giving is at the core of what you do.
Second, you attract and retain some of the most amazing talent in the world. Even in the early days of TOMS we had very little money for executive salaries. We got people from blue chip companies, extremely talented, typically at the later stage of their careers. They left those corner offices and high paychecks to come join us in a warehouse office to be part of something. People want to be part of something when giving is at the core of what you’re doing, in such a simple way like One for One.
The other thing about giving –and this goes a little bit to what Lynne was saying - when you’re giving and serving with your co-workers, you very quickly realize that your own stresses and pet peeves with each other kind of melt away. When you start serving with one another, you don’t worry about all the things that typically stress people out, cause lack of productivity in the company, cause passive aggressiveness. All those things just kind of melt away, when you see these incredible needs you’re serving. So, it’s really good for attracting and retaining, and for employee morale.
CONFERENCE SUMMARY | 19 The third thing that I’ve recognized, and this has been a key to our growth and our success, has been when you incorporate giving in what you’re doing you attract amazing partners. People want to see you be successful. We’ve had more companies, fashion designers, and people voluntarily help us get to the next level. I think that’s the way that we’ve been able to grow and get to where we are today.
I’ll use an example.
In 2009 I got a call from AT&T, who heard that I was an AT&T customer. “Look we want to go on a giving trip with you, so we can film how you are using your device in Ethiopia, Uganda, wherever. And show how an authentic experience of how our technology is helping to do good things in the world.” So they came to Uruguay with me. They hired a documentary filmmaker. We made this commercial.
AT&T spent 40 million dollars on this commercial. It was the largest commercial they had done in years. They’ve had better results with it than any focus group commercial they had tested in ten years. They played it at the Masters; they played it at American Idol; they played it at Survivor. It was so successful that they took a 30 second spot and made it a minute spot to premiere at the Final Four.
And our business literally went like this [he points up].
I met the Chairman of AT&T. I couldn’t contain myself at how thankful I was for what his company had done. And he turned around and thanked me because it allowed his company to show how it was helping a small company like ours help people around the world. So, you can attract amazing partners when giving is at the core.
Giving always feels good. But my message I always like to share with people is that it is also a really good business strategy. I think more and more companies are incorporating it. It’s also a good personal life strategy. If you’re a person who is seen as a giver, more people want to see you be successful.
Vision for the Future: The one-for-one model I have found is really effective in allowing a consumer to know exactly what’s going to happen. There is no ambiguity. There’s no crazy accounting. You buy a pair of shoes, we give a pair of new shoes to a child in need. Now we’re doing sunglasses. You buy a pair of sunglasses, we give someone their sight back. We are doing cataract surgeries; we do eye exams.
I think the one-for-one model has incredible potential to help people in many more ways. My hope and dream and vision for TOMS, and for the company that I mirror off of for very different reasons. I look at Virgin. In the history of business, I can’t think of another company that took a brand and added to it and was able to go into so many industries and have a positive effect. There is no other brand I can think of in the world that has done that.
What I’m so encouraged about today….if you look at what the cool kids are doing today—and many of your kids are probably in that group—they are recycling, they are buying TOMS; they are giving up their birthday to raise money for water projects in Ethiopia. So, my hope and dream is that I can continue to use the one-for-one model to effect many things whether it’s food, water, or something else.
Conclusion The CEO of Conscious Capitalism Inc., Doug Rauch ended the conference with some observations about the growth of the movement. Unlike some previous attempts to improve capitalism, the conscious capitalism paradigm is guilt-free. We can help the world and make a profit at the same time without degrading employees and doing damage to the earth. There is no need for guilt about being a successful business person implementing conscious principles. Indeed, Rauch noted that the millennials already seem to be viewing this enterprise on these terms. They are turned on by conscious, socially-aligned capitalism. Rauch reviewed some of the excited developments with CCI (Conscious Capitalism Inc.). It is reaching out to business schools through academic papers and hosting CEO summits annually in Austin, TX. Conscious Capitalism is growing its Facebook presence, and chapters are popping up in Australia, Brazil, South Africa, and other places around the world. As this proceeds, Rauch still envisions Esalen playing a vital role in nurturing this movement along.
Esalen’s beautiful land and culture of integration continues to show innovative ways to bring together the sacred and the commercial. As an outgrowth of this CTR conference series, in the near future more CEOs and business executives will be invited to take part in the magic of Esalen. They will contribute to the larger conversation on capitalism, business, ecology, and human potential. As a leader for more than fifty years in bold experiments that help further the evolution of consciousness, Esalen and its Center for Theory and Research will continue to nurture and serve the conscious capitalism and conscious business movements.