Sponsored by the School of Business, the next Alverno Forum, held on March 20, 2014, will discuss new ways businesses are putting socially valuable practices at the top of their agenda, including the idea of Conscious Capitalism. To this end, the Forum will focus on four key questions:

  1. How and why has public perception of capitalism and of business deteriorated?
  2. How has the debate evolved over time about the ‘responsibility’ of business in a capitalist market?
  3. How is ‘success’ defined for ‘for-profit’ business?
  4. What are the key distinctions/differences among the new intellectual frameworks that analyze how businesses manage their relationships with the external world?

Conscious Capitalism builds on the foundations of capitalism – voluntary exchange, entrepreneurship, competition, freedom to trade and the rule of law – and has four pillars guiding and underlying its businesses: higher purpose, conscious leadership, stakeholder orientation and a conscious culture.

The topic of Conscious Capitalism grew out of previous Business Forums where discussions focused on the triple bottom line, intraprenuership and the keys to small business success. The School of Business wanted to bring intrapreneurs and entrepreneurs together to discuss how to achieve more freedom and flexibility in a broader way than simply “optimizing the return to shareholder” with a short-term focus.

“This is intriguing because Conscious Capitalism stresses capitalism is the most powerful system for social cooperation and human progress ever conceived. It states making money is good but what’s important is to do something more than simply make money,” says Jim Henderson, assistant professor and moderator of the Forum.

The Forum is a working session intended to provide individuals and present/future entrepreneurs who have an interest in business with information on how to build a better world. Henderson notes this aligns with the teachings in the School of Business.

Henderson anticipates the Forum will generate healthy discussion. “Conscious Capitalism has lately become an engaging theme and an increasingly popular business model. It is seen as a more complex form of capitalism that reflects and leverages the interdependent nature of life and all of the stakeholders in a business,” says Henderson.

What differentiates Conscious Capitalism from a framework like the balanced scorecard is it specifically advances the power of business to serve the needs of humanity. The movement has created rigorous standards of social and environmental performance, accountability and transparency. A “B Corps” certification is offered through the nonprofit B Lab to meet those standards.

The confirmed panelists provide a wide range of experience in entrepreneurial organizations, big corporation, for-profit, nonprofit and education. They include:

Alex Jung – global advisory partner, health care consultancy practice, Ernst & Young LLP

Kelly O’Brien – president and founder, Ideaction Corps (certified B-Corp)

Thea Polancic – managing partner, ClearSpace LLC, and founder and executive director of the Chicago chapter of Conscious Capitalism

Nicholas Santos, PhD. – assistant professor of marketing in the College of Business, Marquette University

The Forum also provides a strong networking opportunity. “I believe we will get into substantive dialogue about how to manage companies effectively for high performance while balancing the needs of diverse stakeholders. There should be a lot of “how” questions, interactive discussions, and many specific examples, particularly from our distinguished panelists,” says Henderson.

Free and open to the public, the upcoming Alverno Forum provides an opportunity for entrepreneurs, businesses and organizations to learn how to have more freedom while becoming socially responsible and still maintaining a profitable bottom line.

For more information or to register, visit alverno.edu/forum, or contact Laura Sear at laura.sear@alverno.edu or 414-382-6177.