Conscious Capitalism: Liberating the Heroic Spirit of Business

Physical Copy:


By: John Mackey

Rating: B+

“Capitalism is fundamentally ethical because it is based on voluntary exchange for mutual gain. It is not a win-lose game. It is a win-win-win game. All of these stakeholders are winning or they wouldn’t be exchanging with the business.” – Mackey

This book feels pretty relevant today.

The author is the co-founder of Whole Foods Market. He describes himself as a very left leaning liberal politically. He once viewed business and capitalism as an evil, greedy, and unfair playground for the rich. That was until he ventured out on his own and found that business can be used for much more than making money. 

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena…” – Roosevelt

The author was merely a critic from the outside attacking what he didn’t fully understand. As he became a doer, he gained a better understanding of how to use business as a tool to change the world.

“We believe that business is good because it creates value, it is ethical because it is based on voluntary exchange, it is noble because it can elevate our existence, and it is heroic because it lifts people out of poverty and creates prosperity.” – Mackey

The author places the blame for capitalism’s bad reputation squarely on the business community, which has engaged in “crony capitalism” (seeking government favors) and followed a narrow business model that makes profits the primary objective.

The business community has done a crappy job of teaching the next generation how to use these tools. They have done a crappy public relations job. It is on the business community to show the impact and give the tools to the next generation. We have to stop being quiet and start speaking up.

So many of my generation view capitalism in a negative light. There are countless reasons for this that I won’t get into BUT this book challenges both camps to realize and pursue the higher purpose of capitalism and business.

It is important to challenge both sides. BOTH can do better! Read things that challenge your perspective.

The book describes what conscious capitalism is by telling stories of real businesses and their practices.

The Four Tenets of Conscious Capitalism:

  1. Higher Purpose and Core Values: Entrepreneurs dream about how the world could be, and create a business to realize that dream.
  1. Stakeholder Integration: Create synergies through win-win solutions with investors, employees, vendors, suppliers, communities, and even the environment. It is so important that every stakeholder is playing the same game and seeking the same goal that benefits everyone (i.e. profit sharing, etc.). This is a beautiful thing when everyone is winning together! You will get plenty of this in my upcoming review of “The Great Game of Business” by Jack Stack.
  1. Conscious Leadership: Leaders have a servant attitude. They integrate the stakeholders in decisions to make the best and most informed decisions.

We all have equal value of our souls. We DO NOT have equal value in the marketplace because we all bring different value. To increase your value in the marketplace you have to add value to yourself (knowledge, skill sets, mindset). A conscious leader pulls this out of their people to help them find their place where passions, innate ability, and opportunity intersect.

  1. Conscious Culture and Management: A company that stands for a purpose and values attracts people with similar interests, who then find meaning in their work. Add to this an environment where they feel their voices matter and you get a company of loyal, passionate, and fulfilled employees. This leads to greater profits and a bigger/better impact on society.

Next Action:

Examine your business. Are you implementing the four tenets?

I want to read more about the history of capitalism.

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