In the fourth of a series of features on Conscious Business, Jean-Sébastien Simon, High Performance Coach and Trainer in Conscious Business at ESSEC Business School, focuses on the People dimension to Conscious Business. But are people the only of our fellow beings concerned?
The Family of Beings: People, animals and diversities, by Jean-Sébastien Simon.
More businesses today focus on serving people, and having a positive social impact. This is critical today, and CSR policies have done a good job at helping businesses orient their activities in this direction.
A business which serves the People need not stop at serving human beings. Jeremy Rifkin, in his work on the Empathic Civilization (and the “homo empathicus”) demonstrated how the consciousness of human beings evolved over the millennia to include more beings in their circle of care:
From tribal consciousness (empathizing only with those from our tribe), to theological consciousness (empathizing only with those from our religion) to ideological consciousness in the 19th Century (empathizing with those from our nation) to global consciousness (empathizing with all other fellow human-beings on earth and even with other creatures and the biosphere as a whole), consciousness becomes more encompassing.
What if we considered sentient beings in a continuum or a spectrum with the varieties of intelligences (and ways to measure it) from the smallest plant to animals and humans?
From minimum to all-encompassing
The more conscious the business, the more sentient beings it can serve. For instance, in one of his presentations on Frugal Innovations, Professor Anil Gupta talked about an innovation in India which was a manual water pump that served both humans but could also quench the thirst of cows and other animals. Here, the well-being of animals has been thought about during the design phase of the product. A business which serves human beings is the minimum a business can do today.
For example, the French brand PouleHouse raises chickens in a way that exceeds the standards set by organic agriculture. They guarantee that their chickens are well taken care of for the decade of their life (in conventional organic farming, chickens are sent to the slaughterhouse after 18 months), and then retired. I am not even comparing to the non-organic farming practices where male chicks are sent to the grinder because they can’t lay eggs.
Going further, brands such as Impossible Foods and Beyond Meat have grown tremendously, offering plant-based meat alternatives. These brands are prosperous, sustainable, have a lower carbon footprint, water use and respect the spectrum of life by not creating more suffering in this world. They also promote health. Documentaries such as the Netflix’s Change Makers, and books such as Brendan Brazier’s Thrive Foods (2011) are interesting sources of information if you want to learn more about plant based diets.
Animals are also making their way in the workplace, and up to 7% of organizations allow pets in the workplace, according to a survey by the Society for Human Resources Management (source). Their presence is believed to improve the work atmosphere, decrease stress, enhance the morale of employees, increase productivity, increase communication between employees and bonding. Furthermore, Pets At Work Programs increase the attractiveness of the workplace for Millennials.
The 7th Generation: Serving the people of tomorrow
Serving the people does not stop at serving people who live today. The intention and Vision of a business can take into account the 7th Generation. This means serving people in the future through our actions of today. Indeed, the businesses we are building today are serving the People of tomorrow. The UN World Commission on Environment and Development sums this up in the following statement: “sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” (Imperatives, 1987). A Conscious Business creates the sustainable building blocks for the future generations.
Food for thought:
For community engagement, companies have come up with many ways to give back, including fundraising, sponsorship, scholarships and investment in local public projects.
As one of their social goals, the brand Seventh Generation states that it is committed to “Creating a healthy and vibrant workplace community”. This can be done through the cultivation of Diversity.
Diversity is… diverse
In yesterday’s world, when we thought about “Diversity”, we usually thought about “cultural diversity.” In today’s world, things have changed: there are various kinds of Diversities an organization needs to work with: gender, ethnical origins, sexual orientation, physical ability, age, linguistic abilities, socio-economic status, religious, introversion, extroversion, ways of thinking and being in the world… The better businesses can apprehend and understand these forms of diversities, the better conscious services and products they will be able to design and offer.
For the purpose of this article, we will explore three key types of Diversity:
The diversity of our ways of thinking, perceiving the world and thus relating to the world. Each brain is wired in a unique way, and if we learn to use it as it is, we can tap into its infinite potential. People with specificities in their brain wiring such as forms of autism, borderline personalities, high potential and others each have gifts to share and create value.
Some companies have already found the opportunities. In France for instance, the Café Joyeux employs a lovely brigade of people with mental disability. Their motto: “Le café servi avec le Coeur” (Coffee served with the heart). Another example is Auticonsult, a French consultancy firm which has a team of consultants with Asperger’s syndrome. They rely highly on their high work ethic, loyalty and ability to instantly spot errors to solve their clients’ problems. Larger companies have developed programs tapping into this huge potential, such as the Microsoft Autism Hiring Program. Indeed, further insight has been published by the Harvard Business Review and also in the remarkable book by independent researcher and journalist Steve Silberman (2017).
2. Gender diversity
Increasingly, gender can be considered as a spectrum, with individuals identifying themselves as other than simply “man” and “woman”. The desire to define themselves instead of letting their gender be defined by birth and biology is a growing trend and increasing numbers of people will wish to choose their gender. In various businesses, this can be seen as a challenge or even as a threat, with many leaders not knowing how to deal with this issue.
However, this represents a tremendous opportunity to tap into. For instance, people who have transitioned have a high capacity for empathy with both men, women, and people of other genders which gives them a unique perspective useful to design more inclusive and user friendly products and services. Their heightened sense of empathy and adaptability can help them lead necessary transformations in the organization, and also a sales edge. Furthermore, their creativity can be a competitive edge as well.
3. Multi/trans-cultural diversity
Cultural diversity is a classic topic in a lot of global organizations. An emerging topic, however, is that of trans-cultural diversity. Indeed, more and more individuals have an extremely diverse background. And I have noticed this in some of the business students I teach. It is not uncommon to see students born in one country, raised by parents from two different nationalities, and who grew up and lived in several other countries.
By the time they reach 25, they might have experienced profoundly 10-20 different cultures for extended periods of time. For them, it might be challenging to point out where “home” is. When they are asked “where are you from?”, it is hard for them to answer concisely. And the challenge is that they have to develop a transcultural identity – an identity beyond a single culture. They create a culture of their own. Linda Brimm calls these people Global Cosmopolitans (2010; 2018). They have a high sense of empathy, are great connectors and can hold tremendous responsibilities in dealing with people from different backgrounds, cross-functional teams and navigate well in time and space.
Tapping into Diversity’s Potential
Conscious Businesses thus not only accept Diversity but know how to manage it, celebrate it, and tap into its tremendous potential to serve people in a more diverse, global and interconnected world by designing inclusive products and services to make the world a better place. What challenges do you see with diversity? What potential do you see?
- Barker, R. T., Knisely, J. S., Barker, S. B., Cobb, R. K., & Schubert, C. M. (2012). Preliminary investigation of employee’s dog presence on stress and organizational perceptions. International Journal of Workplace Health Management.
- Brimm, L. (2010). Global cosmopolitans: The creative edge of difference. New York, NY: Palgrave Macmillan.
- Brimm, L. (2018). The Global Cosmopolitan Mindset: Lessons from the New Global Leaders. Springer.
- Imperatives, S. (1987). Report of the World Commission on Environment and Development: Our common future. Accessed Feb, 10.
- Silberman, S. (2017). Neurotribes: The legacy of autism and how to think smarter about people who think differently. Atlantic Books.
- Link up with Jean-Sébastien Simon on LinkedIn
- Read a related article: Inclusion: United we stand
- Read the previous article in the Conscious Business series on Purpose and change
- Discover the learning offer at ESSEC Business School, France-Singapore-Morocco.
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