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Capitalism with a Conscience

Is it human nature to hate your job? Gallop Polls have regularly showed that 9 in 10 people are either “not engaged” with or “actively disengaged” from their jobs. But does that change when you work for a mission-driven organization? Are employees happier when their work has a purpose? Do companies benefit when their leaders have a social conscience and incorporate that into the DNA of their company?

Well, it’s no surprise but the answer is emphatically yes! Let’s face it. No one really wants to be a hamster on a wheel every day. We all want to believe that what we do actually matters. In fact, Millennials flat out demand it. For example, studies show that more than 50% of millennials said they would take a pay cut to find work that matches their values, while 90% want to use their skills for good.

As Michael Porter and Mark Kramer wrote in Harvard Business Review: “Shared value is not social responsibility, philanthropy, or even sustainability, but a new way to achieve economic success. In other words, many companies that have a socially-conscious mission not only engage their employees more, but they perform better financially. That social value can be exemplified by a company in many different ways, whether it be protecting natural resources, giving back a percentage of profits to a particular cause or providing additional benefits to employees.

Companies like Tom’s Shoes and Warby Parker Eyeglasses incorporated social impact into the very essence of their company with a simple premise – buy a pair, give a pair. Their philosophy like many mission driven organizations was simple – you can make money AND you can do good. The two concepts do not have to be contradictory. In fact, there are so many new companies that are being launched every day that have incorporated some sort of social good into their mission and they are not only succeeding financially, but they are also able to recruit qualified employees more easily.

And this lesson has not been lost on established brands either. For example, Starbucks started a program to help their employees earn college degrees online. Starbucks College Achievement Plan (SCAP) pays full tuition for all eligible part- and full-time U.S. partners in ASU’s online program. Over 1,000 people already completed the program and 9,000 more are working toward a degree. And there are no catches in return. You don’t have to pay back the company or even continue to work for the company after you complete your degree. Of course, the company is hoping that the benefit will pay off in increased loyalty and it most certainly will in many cases.

Social consciousness could permanently reshape the way companies are viewed and the way those companies view their responsibility to the greater good. It could also jumpstart new innovation as business tries to help solve some of the biggest challenges that we face as a society, whether it be reducing poverty, eating healthier and more sustainably, or reducing our footprint on the planet. And it will most likely not be optional moving forward as more and more people are determining where they work and what they buy based on a companies’ mission.

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