“Sustainability” is often defined as the “capacity to endure” or “to conserve without depletion”. With those definitions, our minds tend to associate with energy, natural resources, recycling and waste. There is an aspect of sustainability that is seldom discussed but which is attracting notice in esteemed places, like the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland in January, 2013.
That aspect is the human component of business and the creation of a sustainable culture within companies. Large or small, there are principles that can be adopted in business that authentically and consciously connect and maximize the resources of your team. The need for mindful leadership, creative solutions, nurturing processes and engaged team work represent a new wisdom that respects a “triple” bottom line… profit, people and the planet!
What do we mean when we refer to “conscious” or “mindful” practices in business? The term “Conscious Capitalism” reflects a motivation of higher purpose, not just the bottom line. Over time, if there is no rich and abundant environment, there will be no rich and abundant business. It infers a workplace environment that is aware and respectful of team members. Above all, it requires calm leadership that factors wisdom and the bigger picture into its decision-making.
Mindfulness has had more traction in the personal, self-help sector but it is now purposefully making its way into boardrooms. A recent high-tech conference in California included sessions to discuss meditation techniques, hospitality suites offering sanctuary to “disconnect and reconnect”, along with discussions on the merits of a compassionate workplace. Is this another one of those California trends? Maybe not. In the same month, Time magazine featured “The Mindful Revolution” on its cover and cited its use by high-tech giants, Fortune 500 leaders and Pentagon insiders. A prominent U.S. financial institution was quoted as promoting “mindful spending”.
It has been a conscious choice at Progressive Nutritional Therapies to introduce holistic business concepts such as “closed loops” (everything affects everything around it) and interconnectedness (everyone makes a difference). To initiate mindful management systems, leadership needs the strength of their conviction to stay the course. A business is its own microcosm of individual organisms, all at different stages of development —physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. How do you get all the plates to keep spinning at the same time? Authentic listening, patience and consistency… like a gardener tending plants, trusting in their potential and guiding their progress along the way, can create a “trusted space” for a new question to be asked or an idea to be presented without fear of judgment or diminishment.
We are consciously engaging our staff at a different level. “Asking” rather than telling team players about the ways that we can evolve our processes. Rolling up our sleeves to work “with” team groups during busy or stressful times. The honesty of eye-to-eye contact and heart-to-heart listening is a powerful tool to melt away barriers of misunderstanding and judgment. The motivated and resourceful results are more than a reward. They are the signs that our business is becoming more sustainable at a genuinely human level.
We now offer twice-a-week lunch classes of Sheng Zhen practice… a form of qigong that utilizes both movement to manage energy and promote healthy breathing, along with meditation to relax the mind and reduce stress. One of the teaching points is to “create space between the cells, space between the thoughts”. In organizations, people need space to create solutions, space to understand how their work fits into the bigger picture. From that vantage point, we can see clearly that our business purpose is clear and genuine… “to make healthy products, that make healthy people, while we keep a healthy planet”. It’s our own triple bottom line.
We are “becoming” the change. And in that simple, combined effort, we invite other businesses to consider these principles and infuse their work with mindful purpose and cultivate a compassionate workplace. We are blinking our eyes open to bigger and more evolved horizons, as we recognize that sustainability is “respect in action”, at all levels.