Jean-Sébastien Simon, High Performance Coach and Lecturer in Conscious Business, ESSEC Business School, closes the series of eight features on Conscious Business with a focus on an alternative set of processes required to make a conscious organization prosperous, sustainable over time, and geared towards the common good.
How to Make It All Sustainable? Conscious Processes as a Key to Sustainability, by Jean-Sébastien Simon.
For each of the other 5 Ps of a Conscious Business (see the opening article in the series), it is necessary to set up the right processes. To help employees discover and step more fully into their Purpose, processes such as coaching can be set up. Indeed, coaching allows for greater employee fulfilment, increased productivity, and high Return On Investment (up to 500% – 800% according to Rock & Page, 2009).
The Prosperity of a Conscious Organization can be created thanks to systems designed to fit with our natural behavioural inclinations. The Profit First approach developed by Mike Michalowicz is an example of how one can reverse the Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP) to create sustained profits. Indeed, it is sad to hear that some of the giants and leaders in industry are still not profitable after a few decades in the business – for example, Amazon became profitable a decade after its launch (source), Tesla is barely starting to be profitable (source) and Uber is still struggling far below profitability (source).
Businesses who want to build in a system for profitability need to think differently. The traditional GAAP equation taught in business schools is the following:
- Revenue – Costs = Profits
In the Profit First approach, the equation becomes:
- Revenue – Profits = Costs.
This allows for an organization to set aside its profits first, and then know how much it is allowed to spend on costs. This healthy way of managing cashflow can be seen as a parallel to permaculture, where only what is needed is taken from the plants, which leads to higher yields. Cashflow can be managed in a regenerative way, in a permaculture-like fashion.
From mechanistic to wholesome processes
Processes can also be set up for a more wholesome organizational design. Frédéric Laloux very well described various processes including Structure, Human Resources, Daily Life, and Major Organizational Processes (Purpose, Strategy, Innovation & Product development, Supplier management, Purchasing & investments, Sales & Marketing, Planning, Budgeting & controlling, Environmental & social initiatives, Change management, Crisis management (Laloux, 2014, p. 330-331)).
The Advice Process, for instance, allows for better decision-making at any level of the organization, while minimizing the number of input necessary and maximizing buy-in by stakeholders in a project. Here are the main rules for the Advice Process:
- Anybody can make a decision about anything in the organization.
- Before making that decision, the decision maker needs to ask feedback from all people who will be affected by the outcome of the decision, as well as all the experts that can provide a valuable opinion. After that, the decision can be made, with or without taking into account the various feedback received. This differs from consensus and accelerates the process while keeping a high quality of decision making power.
An ecosystem of facilitators called WE-Flow developed a series of practices to allow for the state of Flow to emerge more organically in the individual and collective consciousness within organizations. This state of Flow (Psyche) was described by Mihaly Csíkszentmihályi (2008) as “an optimal psychological state that people experience when engaged in an activity that is both appropriately challenging to one’s skill level, often resulting in immersion and concentrated focus on a task. This can result in deep learning and high levels of personal and work satisfaction.”
When in this state of consciousness, organizations and individuals operate at a higher level of fun, enjoyment, creativity, and productivity. This is a good example of how specific Processes can be used to induce specific Psychological states of well-being and thriving in an organization.
Processes that steer businesses towards the common good
Organizations can also formalize their Processes through the legal structure they embody. For instance, Certified B-Corporations have been designed to allow for the legal recognition that the organization was designed for a specific purpose while maintaining a profit. They are legally required to consider the impact of their decisions on their workers, customers, suppliers, community and the environment.
Since the first generation of B-Corporations to be certified in 2007, the total number of B-Corps has grown exponentially to reach more than 4,040 companies in 77 countries. They include big names such as Patagonia, Ben & Jerry’s, and more recently, Danone which officially became the largest socially responsible firm in the world. This followed Danone’s strategic framework “One Planet. One Health.”, as well as their 9 company goals that align with the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals.
B-Corps have a thorough Impact score that measures positive impact. Danone has a score of 96/200, whereas Ben & Jerry’s reaches 110 and Patagonia a staggering 150. As a point of reference, ordinary businesses score a median of 50.9, and the requirement to qualify as a B-Corp is 80. B-Corp has made their assessment available online.
Wider purpose alternatives
A certified B-Corp is not the only way to go. Indeed, a Conscious Business can take many forms, including a non-profit or a for-profit, a Social Business (as described by Muhammad Yunus) or new forms that are to emerge.
In France for instance, another status has been created by the 2019 “Pacte” law. This is Entreprise à Mission and is defined as a company whose objectives in the social, societal and environmental fields are aligned with this purpose and set out in its statutes. In June 2020, Danone became the first publicly traded company to adopt this status.
Small but impactful shifts in Processes can lead to major positive impact. Hence, companies who joined the 1% for the Planet movement gave a total of about $295 million to more than 4,500 Nonprofit partners in 91 countries. This has led to positive impact in social and environmental justice, fighting against plastic pollution, and other environmental and social causes.
When setting up internal organization Processes, what matters the most is that these Processes allow to measure, nourish and support the other Ps of a Conscious Business:
Purpose, People, Prosperity, Psyche and the Planet.
- Csíkszentmihályi, M. (2008). Flow: The psychology of optimal experience. New York, NY: Harper Perennial.
- Laloux, F. (2016). Reinventing Organizations. Nelson Parker.
- Rock, D., & Page, L. J. (2009). Coaching with the brain in mind: Foundations for practice. John Wiley & Sons.
- Link up with Jean-Sébastien Simon on LinkedIn
- Read the previous article in the series: What It Means to Be Prosperous: A new look at an old desire
- Download a related CoBS publication from the CoBS website: Leadership, Governance, and Crisis – a bearing f rexceptional times, purposeful business
- Discover ESSEC Business School France-Singapore-Morocco
- Discover and apply for the new ESSEC MSc in Sustainability Transformation.
Learn more about the Council on Business & Society
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The Council on Business & Society (The CoBS), visionary in its conception and purpose, was created in 2011, and is dedicated to promoting responsible leadership and tackling issues at the crossroads of business and society including sustainability, diversity, ethical leadership and the place responsible business has to play in contributing to the common good.
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