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“More than 8 million metric tons of plastic leak into the ocean every year, so building infrastructure that stops plastic before it gets into the ocean is key to solving this issue,” said H. Fisk Johnson, Chairman, and CEO of SC Johnson. SC Johnson, an industry-leading manufacturer of household consumer brands, has launched a global partnership to stop plastic waste from entering the ocean and fight poverty.
In August 2019, after 42 years of its inception, Business Roundtable, that has periodically issued Principles of Corporate Governance, with emphasis on serving shareholders, has released a new statement of Purpose of a Corporation. This new statement was signed by 181 CEOs who have committed to lead their companies to benefit all stakeholders – customers, employees, suppliers, communities and shareholders. Jamie Dimon, Chairman and CEO of JPMorgan Chase & Co., is the Chairman of Business Roundtable. He went on to say, “The American dream is alive, but fraying,” “Major employers are investing in their workers and communities because they know it is the only way to be successful over the long term. These modernized principles reflect the business community’s unwavering commitment to continue to push for an economy that serves all Americans.”
Today the definition of corporate purpose seems to be changing. Companies are now focused on the environment and all the stakeholders. There is a growing ambivalence about Capitalism that only promoted the pursuit of wealth, according to a Harvard Business School survey.
But this is a far cry from when we were growing up in India as youths, in the 1980s. Our definition of personal success was to expeditiously acquire wealth. Most of us who were studying Engineering, Medicine or pursuing other professional degrees, were all looking for a job that would sustain us and support our immediate family. The other option was to emigrate to America or other developed countries, for further studies and make a life here – to celebrate Capitalism in all its glory.
In India, we were quite steeped in religious festivals and rituals. We attended Baal Mandir and had moral science in school, but the concept of Service, Altruism, Seva, Sharing were largely platitudes and they were not a part of our daily lives. There was an inbuilt cynicism about charity and we never felt that when we grow up, we need to think about the greater good of the society.
And that is where Conscious Capitalism comes in. Instead of espousing Ayn Rand’s version of scorched earth capitalism, “ Selfishness is a Virtue”, or blindly following Gordon Gekko’s “Greed is good”, the media, parents, teachers, influence makers could promote and ingrain in all of the youth, students and people at large that there is merit in wealth creation, but it could be infused with altruism. We could celebrate the successful who also share. This could dispel the notion that charity and sharing of wealth is only for the rich and the famous.
America gets criticized for many things around the world, but often the world overlooks that the largest amount of charity and donations have been from the USA. Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Warren Buffet, Larry Elison of Oracle who has pledged a significant portion of his wealth to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook and many others have absolutely embraced the concept of Conscious Capitalism for their corporations. But what would really broaden the pyramid, would be when early entrepreneurs and upcoming executives are also engaged in sharing and giving, and not wait till they reach the pinnacle of success. We cannot expect only governmental initiatives to support the underprivileged. We need to celebrate Conscious Capitalism and entrepreneurs and business leaders who are pursuing their dreams and are also sharing some portion of their wealth with the society.
At GAVS and through the Private Equity firm Basil Partners we are privileged to have been involved in an initiative to nurture and support a small isolated village named Ramanwadi in Maharashtra, through a project named Venu Madhuri (www.venumadhuri.org). The volunteers involved in supporting this small village have brought success in several areas of rural development and the small hamlet is inching towards self-sufficiency.
Basil Partners along with Apar Industries seed-funded the Midday meal program, (www.annamrita.org) that feeds almost 1.26 Million school students per day in Mumbai; and have promoted the Bhakti Vedanta Hospital in Mumbai.
These are all very humble efforts compared to some of the massive projects undertaken by the largest of groups and individuals. However, they all make a difference. I truly believe that we need to internalize some of the credo and values that have been espoused by H Fisk Johnson & the work companies like SC Johnson is doing, emulate Azim Premji, Satya Nadella and many others. They are the true ambassadors of Conscious Capitalism and are creating purposeful corporations.