Uncategorized

Elevating humanity through business

Uncategorized

Alejandro Velez & Nikhil Arora Highlight Conscious Capitalism at 2018 Berkeley Commencement Ceremonies

|

Alejandro Velez & Nikhil Arora, founders of Back to the Roots, had the opportunity to deliver the 2018 commencement address at their alma mater, UC Berkeley’s Haas School of Business and highlighted Conscious Capitalism in their advice to graduating students. A video of their talk and the text of their speech are available below. 

Thank you Dean Lyons! And good morning, Berkeley! Good morning Haas! It’s an honor to be here with all of you and your families on such a special day.

And Dean Lyons – it’s great to be here with you today as you wrap up an incredible tenure at Haas.

We remember so clearly still when we were sitting right there and we heard Dean Lyons repeat our commencement speaker’s lesson to “zig when others zag”.

We particularly remember this because during the last few weeks of college, while most of our friends were getting ready to go into banking or consulting, we were dumpster diving at 6am for old coffee grounds.

And we’ll never forget, at our main campus graduation, the Chancellor actually shared with the thousands of graduates in attendance what we were just starting to work on.

He advised “don’t follow the herd — like Alejandro & Nikhil — who are growing mushrooms on coffee grounds” … but to his surprise — the entire Greek Theater started busting up laughing. He tried to save himself (and us) by saying “no no, I’m serious here”. Just More laughs.

Who woulda thought two guys growing mushrooms in college was too Berkeley for… Berkeley.

Well, Dean Lyons — after 9 years since graduation, we can both say with a big smile & our fair share of entrepreneurial scars to prove it, we certainly have zigged.

It all started for us right here at Haas. We still remember it like it was yesterday — when we first heard this idea that you could potentially grow mushrooms on entirely recycled coffee waste in Professor Alan Ross’s UGBA 107 Business Ethics class. And although Nikhil & I actually didn’t know each other at the time, we happened to be the only two crazy kids who thought that fact was kinda cool and separately reached out to him for more information.

That one sentence we heard in class literally became the start of this whole adventure of building Back to the Roots — a company on a mission to help every family & classroom in America experience the magic of growing food & knowing where it comes from.

And by the way, I later learned that this whole thing almost never happened…. my boy Alex here was the last guy to walk in to class that day and was just seconds away from getting the door shut on him by Professor Ross…

And it was right there, after knowing each other for just a couple months, sitting in a 1992 Toyota Camry in front of Haas on Piedmont street, that we “shook” on it and went all in, together.

That very same day, I called the investment bank I was about to join and in one phone call I gave up my “dream” job that I had worked so hard for – a six figure i-banking job on Wall Street. And I gave up my lease in Manhattan’s lower east side and instead I decided to go all in with Nikhil, who had just given up his consulting offer and moved onto his older brother’s couch.

Overnight we went from full time students & soon-to-be banker & consultant, to full-time waste collectors and urban mushroom farmers.

And as we now step back onto this same stage that we graduated from, we’re not going to stand up here and give you life advice, cuz honestly, we’re still figuring all that out ourselves.

And we’re also not here to tell you how to sell a business for millions of dollars – we’re still deep in it – just last week, we closed our Series B financing and are still head down every day, carpooling to the office together at 6:45am.

But through this journey, from a bucket of mushrooms to building a national brand that’s now touching millions of lives, what we have learned & experienced first-hand is how the conventional rules of business that have defined capitalism for hundreds of years are being rewritten as we speak. The business world you all are graduating into is beginning to feel a lot different than that which our textbooks taught us as business gospel. A new form of capitalism is emerging.

And it’s emerging because the traditional rules of business, rules that we all have read about a thousand times in textbooks and case studies, are being broken as we speak.

Broken because the status quo is no longer enough in business. It may have got us here, but it ain’t gonna get us there. It’s just not enough.

Today, we want to talk about 5 of those rules that are being broken.

Ok, so Rule #1 of conventional, old-school business:

“To be successful in business you have to be an expert in your field.”

Not. True.

We’re the generation that now has all the world’s knowledge in our pocket. We’re a generation that can teach ourselves anything, at anytime….we taught ourselves how to grow mushrooms on YouTube! It’s not about what you know — but knowing what you don’t know and finding the answers.

And it’s not just information expertise either, it applies to relationships too — you don’t need a big rolodex anymore to be successful in business. For instance, the first article about Back to the Roots was by The Daily Cal; after that came out, we googled every writer that we could find who had ever written about sustainability and emailed them a link to that article, saying we’d love to share our story.

Fast forward 6 months from founding, and the BBC aired a 5 minute spot globally on the company!! Since then, we’ve had the tremendous honor of sharing the Back to the Roots story with President Obama during a 90 minute meeting with him, on Jim Cramer’s Mad Money, and even the front page of the Wall Street Journal.

…And, Alex, don’t forget about that time you were in Bachelorette…

But all of this happened without a press agency and without years of contacts. We just had the internet.

And you don’t need to be an expert or have deep industry relationships to get into & succeed in retail either. Our biggest partner to-date, The Home Depot — that’s selling millions of dollars of our Indoor Gardening Kits in thousands of stores nationwide — started off with a cold-email to a buyer,who we only had the first & last name for we guessed 10 different variations ; first name.last name, initial.last name. — one went through, and that was the start.

So the new Rule #1, you don’t need to be an expert to be successful – all the world’s experts are now in your pocket.

2) The 2nd conventional, old-school business rule that you’ve probably heard is that “You need a lot of money to start something new and be successful in business”. Not. True.

The big Silicon Valley funds aren’t the only ones you have to go to now for capital — through Kickstarter & Indiegogo, angel list, CircleUp, & ICOs, we’ve seen the decentralization of fundraising — and the ability to unlock capital no matter where you live.

When we were looking to launch our 2nd product, the Water Garden, we needed $100,000 for equipment., We were looking to create the first ever home aquaponics system, a mini ecosystem that uses fish poop as the fertilizer to grow plants. We decided to put the project up on Kickstarter for 30 days with this $100,000 goal – and our community came through. They ended up pouring $248,873 into it, and then an additional $250k of pre-orders on our website — so we had raised half-million dollars from our own community with just 1 prototype & a 2 minute video. Fast forward, and that community momentum then helped us raise our first outside capital — a $500,000 investment from a local Oakland non-profit called Fund Goods Jobs. Since then, we’ve raised $20M of venture capital from investment funds & larger corporations including Campbell’s and Scotts Miracle Gro.

The new rule #2 — You don’t need a lot of money to be successful in business – capital’s been decentralized.

Rule #3 of conventional, old-school business:

“Keep a secret and keep people out of your business”

There’s a lot of talk about the power of privacy & secrecy in business — “the Coca Cola formula”. But the game’s changed. Transparency is the new norm. And you’re seeing it in a bunch of new ways.

As we built on our vision of connecting families to food by expanding from ready to grow indoor gardening kits to simple ingredient & organic breakfast cereals, we asked ourselves how do we bring that same radical transparency & connection to food you get when you grow your own — to packaged, ready-to-eat products?

In doing this, we decided to really push the boundaries, and actually tell our consumers on every single box of cereal not just exactly what farm our ingredients came from, but also the exact recipe of how we make it.

Right around the time we were launching our cereals at Whole Foods Market, the General Mills board of directors invited us to meet. We’ll never forget though when in that meeting their CMO advised us to take our cereal recipe off the box and said “with my 30 years of business experience, I never would have thought it’s a good idea to share your IP with the world like that”.

Just a few months after that meeting, our cereals displaced Kellogg’s to launch into the NYC public school system, the largest district in the country, helping feed 1.1 million kids every day and becoming the 1st organic cereal in history ever offered in US public schools.

And those cereal cups – they still have the recipe on them!

The best part about the power of transparency? Old-school businesses can’t hide behind multi-million dollar, flashy marketing campaigns. That clever Super Bowl ad isn’t enough anymore — if a product has 1 star on Amazon, we’re not buying it.

The new rule #3 — power in business comes not from secrecy but radical transparency.

The 4th conventional business rule we’ve all heard is about that zero-sum game; that for me to win, you have to lose. Not true.

For small businesses to win, big businesses don’t have to lose — we all can work together to accelerate impact. For example, Campbell’s & Scotts Miracle Gro, both multi-billion dollar multinationals, have invested millions of dollars into Back to the Roots. They’re helping us scale revenue and reduce costs by leveraging their sales, marketing and supply chain expertise. We’re helping them rethink innovation, and push for a faster speed-to-shelf strategy.

And suppliers & buyers don’t have to always extract value from each other either to win. When we were getting started, we sourced our coffee grounds from Peet’s Coffee, adding so much value to them by taking care of their heavy & messy waste, that we eventually replaced Waste Management in their cafes, and in return got paid to source our biggest raw material.

We provided them a more efficient waste service, and in turn, we were able to make a profit on our own Cost of Goods, allowing us to bootstrap the company for years.

THE NEW RULE #4: It’s not I win, you lose. It’s Win-Win-Win.

And Rule # 5 — the last, but probably most impactful conventional business rule we’ve all heard is that a business should Maximize Shareholder value at ALL costs ——– Not. True.

The conventional rule was that a business’ sole reason for existence is to maximize shareholder value, and that the few lucky ones that “make it” should then create a separate CSR team that picks a non-profit to just write a check to once a year.

But today, we’ve seen there are so many ways to create profitable, triple-bottom-line business models that also integrate the community, the team, and the environment into its everyday stakeholders — like Patagonia with their supply chain, Method with their sustainable packaging, and TOMS Shoes with their One for One model.

In fact, we were so inspired by the TOMS model, that we created a similar Grow One, Give One campaign — for every photo someone shares with any of our indoor gardening kits, we donate one to a classroom of their choice.

By integrating that program into every unit we sell, our own community has now helped tens of thousands of kids across the country grow their own food. And the more people share, the more brand awareness grows. It’s an incredible, beautiful cycle.

And by the way it’s ok to take inspiration from others; in fact, Blake, the founder of TOMS, so appreciated seeing his idea transfer into organic gardening and food that we became his very first angel investment after TOMS.

The New Rule Number 5? The best way to maximize your own value? Give value. Because the more you give, the more you get.

And while we’ve stumbled through all these lessons, one mushroom kit and box of cereal at a time, we hope they help open your eyes to the massive transformation of business that’s happening right now, right under our feet.

New rules are being written as we speak, creating space for a new form of capitalism, conscious capitalism — capitalism that aims not just to make money, but to elevate humanity through business. And Back to the Roots is just one example of it—it’s happening all around us.

Two massive multi-nationals, Danone & Unilever, have announced their goals to become Benefit Corporations or B Corps – directly embedding the business impact on multiple stakeholders, beyond just investor returns, into their metrics for success.

And Larry Fink, the CEO of the world’s largest investment firm, BlackRock, with $6.3 trillion dollars of assets under management, just wrote a letter to CEOs demanding that all companies, both public and private, serve a greater social purpose.

So how cool is it that in the hundreds of years since 1776 when Adam Smith wrote “Wealth of Nations” and kickstarted modern capitalism, that you get to graduate from the BEST UNIVERSITY and the BEST BUSINESS SCHOOL IN THE WORLD, AT THIS TIME – a time when all the conventional rules of business are being ripped up to create space for a new form of capitalism.

A form of capitalism that doesn’t separate Doing Good & Doing well.

How awesome. And what responsibility too — because we also carry with us all, as Golden Bears, the legacy of this incredible university and the social activists who have graced these halls and the streets of Berkeley for decades, the movements that were incubated right here — free-speech, anti-war, gay rights, women’s rights, farmworker rights.

So as you get ready to enter the business world, realize that the old rules have been ripped up, and the world is looking to You to help write the new ones. New Rules for a more inclusive, more sustainable, more transparent, and more conscious capitalism.

And you don’t have to do something crazy like growing mushrooms on coffee grounds to help build this new form of capitalism, but you do have the responsibility to carry this flag forward into wherever you go after graduation.

Be the one who makes that big bank judge themselves not just by returns generated, but by carbon sequestered. Be the one who inspires that big consulting company to push their clients to adopt better business practices.

Haas graduates — the next chapter of capitalism is in our generations’ hands, it’s ours to write, so let’s make it a good story that future graduates will be proud of us for.

Congratulations, Go Bears, and Go make history, Haas.

Thank you.


Uncategorized

Invitation to Contribute to the Conscious Capitalism Dialogue

|
Thought leadership has been a cornerstone of the growth of Conscious Capitalism, not only as a philosophy/way of doing business, but also as a community. Going forward, it is imperative that Conscious Capitalism, Inc. (CCI) do more to provide a platform for our incredible community to develop your thought leadership and share it more widely with others. That is why we are taking CCI’s content development program to the next level by opening it up to you for contributions.
We are testing a new series of pieces sourced from the community. If you are pushing into new boundaries in your Conscious Capitalism journey and are willing to capture your experiences in writing, we want to hear from you. If you have a story to share, and you’re willing to invite readers into the highs and lows of what you’ve been through, we would like to consider featuring you.
  • Maybe you’ve recently fired a customer who is not in alignment with your values.
  • Maybe you’ve integrated a new product into your supply chain that resulted from deeper exploration into purpose.
  • Maybe your hiring process has been entirely reinvented around your values.
  • Maybe you recently experienced a conscious sale or merger of your company.
Perhaps you have a perspective on a current event. There is a great deal of commentary about business today, and we want to make sure the views of Conscious Capitalists are included in that commentary. What is a Conscious Capitalist’s take on:
  • Facebook’s protection of data privacy?
  • The Goldman Sachs-World Bank Group fund for women entrepreneurs hitting $1 billion?
  • Major discussion topics at trade or other prominent conferences?
  • Movements in crypto?
  • Something else?
Below you will find instructions for the pitch process. We will be collecting submissions through June 1st. Selected contributors will be notified by June 10th, and asked to prepare a first draft of their piece by June 30th. If you are selected, you will be paired with an editor from our content partner, Round Table Companies, who will help support your contribution to ensure your story has impact.
Thank you in advance for considering sharing what you are learning as you play at the edge of consciousness and business.

Uncategorized

BOLD TV to Broadcast Live from CCAC2018

|

A message from Carrie Sheffield about BOLD TV’s live broadcast from the 2018 Conscious Capitalism Annual Conference. 

We agree with the premise of Conscious Capitalism that making money is essential for the health of a business, but it’s not the only—or even the most important—reason a business exists. Conscious businesses focus on their purpose beyond profit.

At Bold, we strive our hardest as a digital television network to incorporate the principles of Conscious Capitalism in everything we do. We know that a truly altruistic society is one that creates a long-term, sustainable system for maximizing human happiness through voluntary exchange. And we wouldn’t be where we are today without the extraordinary vision, drive and compassion of Al Roker, whose production team at Al Roker Entertainment brought Bold TV to life. A broadcasting pioneer, Al’s career embodies the values of Conscious Capitalism: Higher Purpose, Stakeholder Orientation, Conscious Leadership and Conscious Culture.

Continue reading…


Uncategorized

2018 Heroes of Conscious Capitalism Nominations Open

|

Last year, we recognized our first class of Heroes of Conscious Capitalism. As we begin considering who to invite to the next class of Heroes, we want to hear from you. If you want to nominate someone to become a Hero of Conscious Capitalism, please fill out this form by March 28th.

Nominate a Hero Today!


Uncategorized

CCAC2018 Keynote: Selim Bassoul

|

Selim A. Bassoul, chairman and chief executive officer of The Middleby Corporation, has been called a titan of industry. He is also a conscious capitalist, and one with a global focus. So it is no wonder that besides helping Middleby outperform the S&P 500, he has also earned the Ernst & Young World Entrepreneur of the Year award in 2015 for his philanthropic contributions.

From battling the dangers of civil war while in high school and overcoming ADHD and dyslexia, Selim has also faced and overcome challenges no ordinary CEO typically does. Perhaps this is why his management style is so different, why he is so keenly aware of the difficulties faced by others, and of the importance of helping others too.

Through the Bassoul Dignity Foundation, Selim helps make it the right of every person on this planet to live with dignity. Through compassion, understanding, and innovation, the foundation aims to lift the spirits of those who need it most and empower their lives. See more on how the Bassoul Dignity Foundation helps the displaced and impoverished live with dignity in this video about its refugee support efforts. Then, join us April 30 – May 2 in Dallas for an inspiring three days of elevating humanity through business at the 2018 Conscious Capitalism Annual Conference.


Uncategorized

Women Leaders at CCAC2018

|

On this International Women’s Day (March 8th) we celebrate the social, economic, cultural and political achievement of women. We couldn’t be more proud of the achievements made by the inspiring women who will be speaking at this year’s Conscious Capitalism Annual Conference.

Learn more about these women and their role in advancing the Conscious Capitalism movement in their bios below and then join us for what will be a celebration of not only their accomplishments but also of all people dedicated to elevating humanity through business in Dallas, Texas, April 30 through May 2 for the largest gathering of Conscious Capitalists yet!

Suzy Batiz, Founder and CEO, Poo-Pourri

Carrie Freeman Parsons, Vice Chair, Freeman

Rachel Hurt, Author, Conscious Capitalist

Lady Lynn Forester de Rothschild, Founder and Chief Executive, Coalition for Inclusive Capitalism

Kristen Hadeed, Founder, Student Maid

Michelle Kinder, Executive Director, Momentous Institute

 

 


Uncategorized

CCAC2018 Keynote: Carrie Freeman Parsons

|

Freeman Co. is the world’s largest brand experience company. This year’s Conscious Capitalism Annual Conference will be the largest gathering of purpose-driven business leaders in the world. So, nobody more appropriate to talk about how to grow engaging experiences with the organizational brand dedicated to elevating humanity through business than the vice chair of Freeman Co., Carrie Freeman Parsons.

It also helps that Carrie is a Conscious Capitalism, Inc. board member emeritus, who has tons of insights and lessons learned from managing dramatic growth inside a purpose-driven company to share with the community. Learn more about Carrie and the family business started by her grandfather 90 years ago, and how she’s baked Conscious Capitalism into their culture when they started to transform a $1 billion trade show company into the $3 billion global brand experience firm they are today. Then, make plans to join us in Dallas April 30 through May 2 for the best Conscious Capitalism Annual Conference yet!

 


Uncategorized

The Curious Conscious Capitalist Podcast – Episode 2

|

In this episode of Conscious Capitalism Chicago’s podcast, host Tom Yorton talks with Gold Eagle CEO, Marc Blackman, about how to “Lead with Purpose and Be Your Values.”


Uncategorized

Throwback Thursday: Michael C. Bush at CC2017

|

We were so honored to have Great Place to Work CEO, Michael C. Bush, joined us at the 2017 Conscious Capitalism Annual Conference in Philadelphia to give us insight into how company’s make the prestigious GPTW list. For 20 years Great Place to Work has published their gold-standard list of the 100 Best Companies to Work For. But their latest research shows that what was good enough to be a “great” workplace 10 or 20 years ago is not good enough now. Even at the best workplaces, it was clear that leaders can—and must—do better.

Michael and his team at GPTW found significant gaps between the experiences of executives and those on the front lines. Between full-time and part-time employees. Between men and women. Between whites and people of color. Michael realized: “That’s not good enough. If we’re going to call a company “great,” it’s got to be great for everybody. It’s got to be a Great Place to Work…For All.”  As a result, GPTW re-examined its definition of a Great Workplace and a Best Workplace and decided to raise the bar.

Check out Michael’s full keynote from last year’s conference below. If this is the kind of motivation that inspires you to be a better capitalist, then we hope you’ll join us for this year’s Annual Conference in Dallas!


Uncategorized

Free Excerpt of “Conscious Capitalism Field Guide”

|

Five years following the publishing of Conscious Capitalism: Liberating the Heroic Spirit of Business, we’re excited to share this special offer in advance of the highly anticipated follow-up practical handbook: Conscious Capitalism Field Guide!

Thanks to our friends at Harvard Business Review Press, we’re excited to offer you a complimentary excerpt from the book, including foreword by Whole Foods Market co-founder and CEO, John Mackey. Get a jump start on codifying best practices and applying proven tools from this systematic process geared specifically to elevate humanity through business.

If you like what you read–and we’re certain you will!–you can pre-order Conscious Capitalism Field Guide: Tools for Transforming Your Organization in advance of its April 2018 publishing through the Conscious Capitalism Bookstore. Additionally, if you are interested in purchasing discounted bulk quantities for your organization, please email clark.ruper@consciouscapitalism.org.

We hope you enjoy this complimentary excerpt and look forward to sharing more of the books hands-on materials in the months to come!