Conscious-Business.org.uk

A home for the Conscious Business community in the UK


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CASS Report shows Employee Owned businesses more resilient

This is a great piece of research from CASS Business School. It shows that employee owned companies are at least as resilient as non-EOB’s in good times but have a huge advantage in hard times such as recession, outperforming non-EOB’s in growth, turnover, profits, productivity, etc.

UPDATE-Employee-Ownership-Report-January-14-2014

It’s short, to the point and there are graphs and picture to make it easier to digest. So why not have a read…


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Enough is enough

I came across a really neat little report today – “Enough is Enough” – that summarises in just ten pages the reasons why we need a steady state economy, and what we need to do to get started on creating such a thing.

It was produced by two British non-profit organisations: CASSE and Economic Justice for All, and is based on work at the first Steady State Economy Conference held in June last year.

The ten straightforward proposals seem very much aligned with what we are trying to do with Conscious Business. In fact, so much so, that I have added links to relevant past posts in the list below. The ten proposals include:

  • stabilising population – sensible in a finite world, but what a challenge to achieve and maintain this;
  • reforming the monetary system – if you thought stabilising population was difficult, imagine successfully reforming banks, bankers and all that;
  • changing the way we measure progress – something so deeply entrenched in establishment thinking, and in the education system itself;
  • improving global co-operation – vital to balance the needs of countries where growth is necessary with developed countries like ours, but an immense political challenge;
  • engaging politicians and the media – another daunting task; but there are always early adopters in these groups.

And five in particular standout as of specific relevance to business:

  • limiting resource use and waste production – this, to me, is the only sensible route in a finite world, and business as a huge user of resources and producer of waste clearly has an enormous role to play in this;
  • limiting inequality – lots of practical things we can do here and are already exploring – like limiting the gap between the highest and lowest paid; and introducing new models of business ownership;
  • securing full employment – this requires a change in the way we think about employment – for example, to allow us to reduce the working week. I have written before about the real, underlying challenges of this;
  • changing consumer behaviour – we have the technology, and probably the know-how; but do we, collectively, have the will: this means, ultimately, changing ourselves?
  • rethinking business and production – the key here for me is changing the primary goal of business towards developing the people in the business – helping them become more conscious and happier.

All of these things are difficult individually. And overall the list of 10 priorities can make the whole exercise seem overwhelmingly hard. But two things strike me:

  1. We are already some way down the track on many of these things. I know more about the business elements than the others but I know we have been experimenting – going around the loop of failure and success – for many years. Conscious Business itself is already a broad and growing church.
  2. What an exciting and amazing overall goal? A true Big Hairy Audacious Goal – something stimulating and exciting for a whole new generation of younger business people. Young people who in many cases aren’t held back by the attitudes and outlook of their older colleagues. People who are happy to shake up the status quo and challenge “Establishment” thinking.
Game on!


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The meaning of money?

I was mildly amused by a comment overheard on twitter the other day. One G20 protestor to another “How do we know which ones are the bankers?” Answer: “They’re the ones wearing jeans”.

This reminded me of a minor turning point in my life some years ago: coming out of Temple tube station on a visit to London I was struck by the fact that all the men seemed to be wearing ties. All around me, men (and some women) in black shoes, smart suits and ties.

I was suddenly transported back to my school days – the men suddenly seemed like school boys, pouring and up and down the staircases, carrying their homework home in their briefcases.

Off to the next lesson. Eager to please.

Semioticians would probably talk of the meaning behind these symbols and others that appear in central business districts the world over, such as the architecture of the buildings themselves. What do the sharp creases in trousers and buildings alike signify? Why is it all so shiny?

They might also ask what it means when someone reportedly waves a £10 note out of a bank window at marchers. Just what did that mean?


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Shared aims and desires

How can you tell whether an investment is a good investment?

It seems we can’t always trust watchdogs like the Securities and Exchange Commission.  A lot of people seem rather upset that the SEC missed signs that Bernard Madoff’s scheme wasn’t all it was promised to be.

Madoff was apparently a former head of the Nasdaq stock market, so had great credentials. And I am sure if I had met him he would have seemed very respectable and would have charmed me like he did so many others.

Would I trust a bank? Perhaps not as much as  I might have a few years ago. Does a glossy shop-front, impressive numbers, shiny badges or powerful technology mean that our money is in safe hands? None of these things seems to have stopped some of our banks fumbling the ball.

So maybe it’s better to assume the worst. Human nature being what it is, most of us at one time or another fall victim to greed, or other unhelpful motivations. And it only takes a moment for something to start going horribly wrong.

Past history isn’t always a good predictor of how things will go in the future. My track record helps but it really doesn’t say that much about what I will do tomorrow.

Working together in a community is one way to combat these all too natural human failings. If the community creates, agrees and implements the right checks and balances, then any momentary lapse is much less likely.

And another good indicator seems to me to ensure your motivations are aligned with those in whom you put your trust. If your goal is to look after the planet, and so is mine, then we surely can expect that some of our behaviours will be aligned too.

That seems to me to be a huge and global opportunity. The more we share motivation with others the more likely we are to be able to trust each other. This is good because, simply put, people who trust each other get more done more quickly.

Wouldn’t it be great if we all shared the motivation of making the world a better place. We’d get a lot more done, more quickly, partly because we’d trust each other more. What a lovely, though perhaps impossibly naive, thought.

If it can’t work globally, perhaps it would work locally. And to find out whether we share motivation, we often simply have to ask. I don’t always find it easy to say what my motivations are, probably because they are quite complex. But if you give me time, I’ll certainly give it a go.

And I find people who are honest and open, and who tell me the full and complete story, however much grey there is, much easier to trust.  That’s where I’ll always invest my time, and the little money I have.


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Roll up, roll up

What a great time to enrol people in the business of doing something about social and environmental issues.

Gordon Gecko was wrong, greed is not good. As some of the financial fat cats get their comeuppance surely we’ll see  an acceleration towards a world where more people use their working lives to do something worthwhile.

But what might stop this happening?

Firstly, I suppose, especially in an economic downturn, people might claim poverty. But as fellow JustMeans blogger Osbert Lancaster wrote in “Responsible business in a time of turmoil?” – one good strategy is to remember we in the West are rich. Wildly rich compared to many of the people in the developing world.

Selfishness isn’t a bad strategy in my view. If you don’t look after yourself, what chance do you have of looking after others? The trick is probably to try to sort oneself out, in every way, then start to see what you can do for others.

Secondly, many people seem to argue there’s no point. The world’s going to hell in a handcart anyway, so why bother. Well is it? It seems to me that our biggest hope is the very presence of sites like JustMeans, and all the thousands (millions?) of people signing up to similar initiatives. If together we create a critical mass, then surely there’s some hope?

Thirdly, some people seem to feel they aren’t able to do anything. Maybe we haven’t got  the skills. Or maybe we don’t have any choice.

That’s something that took me some years to fully understand. That really everything we do is our own choice. We may tell ourselves that we have no choice but it’s simply not true. No one cooerces us. Or very rarely anyway.

Anything else? People like me, preaching? Personally, I hate being told what to do. And I do worry that many of our social and environmental organisations are too exclusive, run by “professionals” and “experts”. People who “know” the answers. (Hopefully that’ll trigger a response!)

I like the message that came across from Paul Hawken’s Blessed Unrest video – that this movement is wide and deep, broad and inclusive. Everyone, literally everyone, has something to contribute.

So dive in.