2012: Socially Responsible Business

    An excerpt from the author’s chapter in the book, The Mystery of 2012.

    Are you stuck in fear and dread about looming disasters culminating in 2012? If so, I’d like to help shift the way you look at the world, especially business and politics. Why not imagine a better world in the future and live this vision moment to moment in the choices you make and the work that you do? In this way you can help create it.

    We, as humanity, have a choice: do we want to see the physical and emotional suffering of the old world increase, both personally and collectively, or do we want to experience more of the beauty of the new world? Each and every one of us as members of the human family is facing a great soul choice: Which path will we take in the coming years of upheaval and change?

    The choice is between holding onto old, self-centered patterns of thinking or opening yourself to new values and more peaceful and sustainable ways of living. One choice leads to escalating crises and chaos; learning the hard way through increased physical and emotional suffering brought on by selfishness and greed. The other choice offers the evolutionary opportunity to be more compassionate and caring about the good of others and so build a new civilization. Although there is a higher non-dual reality beyond this seeming duality of new and old worlds, right now at our human level we must make choices and act.

    Did you know that at this very moment a new world is emerging right through the cracks and crevices of the old world? It’s alive, growing and vibrant, in stark contrast to the old world that is running on fear, anger and greed. By 2012 this new world, born out of the creative minds and compassionate hearts of self-empowered visionaries everywhere, will be even more visible and influential, impacting every aspect of life.

    These practical visionaries, whom I call "the Builders of the Dawn," are found in all fields of life and in all nations. They’re bringing new ideas and solutions to our problems-from war and terrorism to poverty and environmental destruction. These visionaries often seem like they are glowing from within, as they are filled with light and passion.

    It’s easy to see the negative impact of business and politics in the world today-just pick up a newspaper or turn on the evening news. But in case you’ve missed it, there are also many positive changes in business and politics going on all around you. I’ve been researching this growing phenomena for some time, and over the years I’ve met many of the founders and directors of these new projects.

    My work is to help connect the dots so you can see the bigger pattern emerging in business and politics. The new world is growing steadily, if you know where, and more importantly, how to look. It’s all a question of perception. Although reports on these new approaches can be found here and there in the mainstream media, few people are weaving them together to show the bigger picture of change now occurring. If we examine the positive trends in business and politics, it will give us great hope for the future. These new trends are more aligned with the direction of evolution-towards greater synthesis, interconnection, and creative intelligence.

    One of the reasons for the growing impact of this new world by 2012 is simple: the next generation, who will be coming of age then, are already more in tune vibrationally with it. And if they haven’t yet discovered it, they soon will.

    Some patterns of change are "continuous"-meaning we can see certain trends and project them into the future; other patterns are "discontinuous"-based on chance or chaos. Since we live in a world of interlaced systems where everything is connected to everything else, it’s essential to notice the patterns and interconnections-and to be prepared for unexpected change as well.

    Socially Responsible Business

    By 2012 multi-national corporations will be even larger and more powerful than today, affecting every aspect of our lives, as the merging of giant companies continues and new markets are exploited around the world. While capitalism is extremely efficient at producing and distributing products and services, it has had many damaging effects on both people and the environment in pursuit of its single purpose: generating profit by any means necessary. All that is needed is to expand the purpose of business-the bottom line.

    Money as the single bottom line is increasingly a thing of the past. In a post-Enron world, values and ethics are an urgent concern. I’ve found that the hottest buzz today is the idea of a "triple bottom line," a commitment to "people, planet, profit." Concern for the welfare of employees and the environment is helping the bottom line, and recent studies have proven it.

    Both external and internal factors are pressuring business to change. External forces, such as depleting oil supplies and strife in oil-producing countries, will continue to drive prices ever higher across the board, at the same motivating companies to reduce their energy consumption and follow a more sustainable approach. Even major companies have begun to see the handwriting on the wall, and in their public relations campaigns they compete to be seen as the most environmentally sustainable. And increasing political pressure from citizens will lead to more government regulation of corporate excesses.

    Companies have also been feeling internal pressure and transforming from the inside out. The movements for social responsibility and for spirituality at work are growing dramatically and will be very significant by 2012. Social responsibility addresses the external effect of business on society and spirituality addresses the personal, internal dimension.

    For years I’ve been investing in socially responsible businesses, leading trainings on spirituality at work, buying environmentally friendly products, and inviting visionary business leaders to speak at conferences I’ve organized. I’ve also been active in the international Spirit at Work organization and as a Fellow of The World Business Academy, which promotes corporate responsibility. All of this has greatly increased my optimism about the world in 2012.

    LOHAS.com reports there is now a $228.9 billion U.S. marketplace for goods and services focused on holistic health, the environment, social justice, personal development and sustainable living. Significant financial flows are being redirected into these areas. Sociologist Paul Ray writes that approximately 30 percent of the adults in the U.S., or 50 million people, are currently consumers of these goods and services. These people generally make conscientious purchasing and investing decisions based on their social and cultural values. They are the future of business and of progressive social, environmental and economic change in the U.S. and elsewhere.

    Each day, more and more businesses are helping create a better world by becoming more socially responsible-to their employees, their shareholders, their community and the environment. And their financial success is turning heads. Author Patricia Aburdene calls this "Conscious Capitalism" or "Stakeholder Capitalism" in her book Megatrends 2010, and names it as one of the emerging megatrends. She notes that socially responsible corporations tend to be well managed, and great management is the best way to predict superior financial performance.

    The socially responsible movement provides concrete evidence that business, as the most powerful institution in world today, may be transforming from within. As World Business Academy cofounder Willis Harman remarked many years ago, "The dominant institution in any society needs to take responsibility for the whole, as the church did in the days of the Holy Roman Empire."

    Business for Social Responsibility (BSR) is a San Francisco-based nonprofit founded in the 1990s which has grown today to over 400 organizations, including about half of the Fortune 500. BSR defines corporate social responsibility (CSR) as a "comprehensive set of policies, practices and programs" that earn financial success in ways that "honor ethical values, and respect people, communities and the natural environment."

    Early pioneers in the field of social responsibility that have developed well-respected brands and loyal costumers include The Body Shop, Ben and Jerry’s Ice Cream, Stoneyfield Yogurt, Timberland Shoes, Patagonia, Tom’s of Maine and the Men’s Wearhouse. These companies typically support community projects and good causes, and find more innovative ways to support their employees and protect the environment.

    Work / Life Balance

    Internal pressures for change in the corporate sector come from people realizing that there’s more to life and business than profits alone. There’s been an increasing emphasis on what’s called "work/life balance"-as the work-addicted find a way "to get a life"-carve out time for other interests and needs outside of work. I’ve been part of a new wave of consultants and organizations growing over the years that helps individuals and companies find a way to achieve this balance. I love giving trainings on this theme, as happier, healthier employees boost profits. And this is a major driver for change that will be far more dramatic by 2012.

    People at all levels in the corporate hierarchy increasingly want to nourish their spirit and creativity. When employees are encouraged to express their creativity, the result is a more fulfilled and sustained workforce. Happy people work harder and are more likely to stay at their jobs. A study of business performance by the highly respected Wilson Learning Company found that 39% of the variability in corporate performance is attributable to the personal satisfaction of the staff.

    Spirituality was cited as the second most important factor in personal happiness (after health) by the majority of Americans questioned in a USA Weekend poll. Results showed that 47 percent of respondents said that spirituality was the most important element of their happiness. Increasing numbers of people think it’s time to bring their spiritual values (but not necessarily their religion) into their workplace. Key spiritual values in a business context include integrity, honesty, fairness, accountability, quality, cooperation, intuition, trustworthiness, respect, and service.

    To the surprise of many, this movement is beginning to transform corporate America from the inside out, and it will have rippling effects on the economy and the social fabric by 2012. Growing numbers of business people want their spirituality to be more than just faith and belief; they want it to be practical and applied. They want to bring their whole selves to work, body, mind and spirit. Many business people are finding that the bottom line can be strengthened by embodying their values. They can "do well by doing good."

    Across the world, people increasingly want to bring a greater sense of meaning and purpose into their work life. They want their work to reflect their personal mission in life. Many companies are finding the most effective way to bring spiritual values into the workplace is to clarify the company’s vision and mission, and to align it with a higher purpose and deeper commitment to serve to both customers and the larger community.

    All of these growing trends are hopeful signs of a positive future that I believe could be more fully visible by 2012. They give me a real sense of hope for the future of democracy, as well as for our future economic and spiritual health, both here in the U.S. and around the world.

    But each of us is making choices day by day in our own lives to either open to new ideas and embrace the values of this new world-such as compassion, connection, respect for differences-or to stay stuck in fear, greed or anger.

    The choice is up to each of us. I’m choosing the new world, as I believe our lives depend on it. How about you?

    Previous articleWill the World Really End on Dec. 21, 2012?
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    Corinne McLaughlin is co-author of Spiritual Politics and Builders of the Dawn and Executive Director of The Center for Visionary Leadership, based in the Washington, D.C. and San Francisco Bay areas. She coordinated a national task force for President Clinton's Council on Sustainable Development and taught politics at American University. She is a Fellow of The World Business Academy and the Findhorn Foundation. Visit www.visionarylead.org or email corinnemc@visionarylead.org. Copyright © Corinne McLaughlin. All Rights Reserved.



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