How Story Can Change the World
I recently spent several days in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, for the Conscious Capitalism annual conference. Thinking about all the great people I met and the insightful speakers I heard there, I am in much gratitude of my choice to attend.
There were so many wonderful stories told at the event, and I feel compelled to share some of them with you, to demonstrate how it is, indeed, possible to do business with a conscience.
People Before Profits
Jerry Stritzke, president and CEO of American retailer, REI (Recreational Equipment, Inc.), shared how their business continues to grow, despite enormous popularity of online shopping (which has caused many retail giants to close their doors). He told us how 70% of REI’s profits go to their co-op members (who are their customers). He believes that having purpose as a corporation is a competitive advantage and REI has embraced this approach. REI’s purpose is "A life outdoors is a life worth living." Their sale associates are called "Inspired Guides". On Black Friday, the biggest retail sales day of the year, REI closed and gave its employees the day off to spend time outdoors with their families. That story went viral, in this time of corporate greed. Easy to see why! -- Positive impact to employees and huge positive press!
Dion Drew grew up in one of the toughest areas of New York. He spent time in prison, and, upon his release, no one would hire him. Until, one day, when he got a call from Greyston Bakery, asking if he wanted a job. Greyston has an open hiring model. They hire the next person on the list—no questions asked, no interviews, no background checks. Greyston’s president, Mike Brady, shared that they are a modest bakery with a great, big, disruptive idea being “Bakers on a Mission.” He says "We don't hire people to bake brownies. We bake brownies to hire people." And with this attitude, Greyston Bakery has grown to be quite successful. In fact, you are probably familiar with them (sort of!) already! Greyston’s is responsible for the brownie in every container of Ben and Jerry's Chocolate Fudge Brownie ice cream. Greyston Bakery now bakes 35,000 pounds of brownies each day for their customers.
Planting Seeds of Knowledge
By the time Alejandro Velez, cofounder of Back to the Roots, was 20 years old, he had been kidnapped, had 2 uncles murdered, moved to the US, and experienced cancer twice. And he says that he refuses to live in fear. Instead, he has truly made something of his life. Back to the Roots is a business that allows kids to see where their food comes from. He's partnered with schools so that teachers can bring indoor container gardens into classrooms. This conscious company is growing! They’re also now producing Back to the Roots ready-made cereal. This cereal includes four ingredients or less, and each container lists where the ingredients come from. In taste tests, children chose this cereal over traditional options!
Helping Those In Need
Serial social entrepreneur and author of the book “Do Cool Sh*t”, Miki Agrawai founded four businesses, including restaurant Eat Drink Wild (now with four locations) and Thinx (underwear for people—including transgendered people—who menstruate). Combined, these businesses grew from $0 to $50 million in two years. Each of Agrawai’s businesses gives back. For instance, for every pair of Thinx underwear sold, a package of reusable pads is given for girls in Africa so they can remain in school when they have their periods.
Compassionate Car Dealer
Steve Hall is the president of a used car dealership driverselect in Dallas, Texas that operates on conscious capitalism principles. Their stated purpose is “to infect the world with highly contagious care” and their core mission is “to be both a catalyst and exemplar for how care can build a sustainable business model that makes a meaningful impact on the people it touches.” The culture embraces individuality of their employees, and operates on core values that include to “be transparent” and “take ownership.” Not the perception of what is typically thought of the used car industry is it? Has it been successful? Well in two years, the organization has grown seeing car sales grow by 5 times (from 200 to 985 cars) and the number of employees more than double (from 52 employees to 120). (And talking to 2 of the employees there, they sure sound happy!)
These are just 5 of the stories that were shared at this 3-day event. I could have easily included many other equally positive stories! Each one, a wonderful example of how a person can do great things in business, be purpose driven, and make money.
How did these stories impact you as you read them?
If you’re like those of us who had the privilege of hearing these stories in person… you feel inspired! I personally felt upleveled in my belief of what is possible.
Stories can inspire people to take action they wouldn't have taken otherwise.
Stories can change our beliefs in what is possible.
Over 300 business leaders from across the globe were in that room, sharing their stories. And over 300 leaders from across the globe left that room in Philadelphia inspired to make a difference in some way.
And that is how story can change the world!
Interested in listening to an audio on this topic? Then click here to go to the podcast episode page.