Conscious Capitalism Chicago: Blog

We write monthly pieces about our adventures, tours, gatherings, discussions and more.

  • September 30, 2015 8:27 AM | Deleted user

    Field Report – Our Member Tour to METHOD’s “Southside Soap Box”

    Colorful awnings and flags waving in the breeze greeted our group when we arrived at METHOD’s new North American manufacturing headquarters in the historic Pullman Park neighborhood of Chicago’s south side. Thirty intrepid members of the Chicago Chapter converged on the site to get a private tour of the facility, and spent the next hour with our great tour guides.

    Method is a $150m soap company, founded by Eric Ryan and Adam Lowry in San Francisco, now owned by the Sorenson family, founders of the Ecover brand. METHOD have been participants in the Conscious Capitalism movement for a while – some of us remember Eric Ryan, Founder and then CEO, from the annual conference in San Francisco in 2013 – and how we entertained us with his live enactment of the white jumpsuited “people against dirty” video. METHOD has also been leading the way in the B Corp movement. The values and discipline of being a B Corp were really evident as we toured the plant. Method’s motivation for building this new manufacturing facility was driven by their desire to improve their B Corp ratings and to demonstrate their ongoing commitment to sustainable business practices.

    In seeking a site for their new state-of-the-art facility, Method specifically sought out a brown field site – one that was condemned due to contamination and was considered beyond repair. It’s worth noting that prior to starting construction, Method was tasked with cleaning up the 22-acre site, formerly occupied by Ryerson Steel. Their commitment to the clean up, as well as the construction the manufacturing facility, was done without receipt of any tax breaks.

    They then proceeded to turn that site into a LEED platinum certified plant that has an urban rooftop farm (operated by Gotham Greens) that cools the building without air conditioning and uses less energy than the standard building footprint.


    Method is one of only two companies in the United States to carry the LEED platinum certification designation.

    We learned that Method’s environmental commitment didn’t end with the construction of the building. Method does all of its manufacturing, bottling, labeling, packaging, and distribution onsite. For example, the company also looked to its supply chain to reduce its environmental impact. These partnerships include Amcor Rigid Plastics and JB Hunt. Amcor Rigid Plastics operates an onsite bottle facility to manufacture all of Method’s corn-based plastic, post-consumer recyclable bottles. And, JB Hunt operates four dedicated bio diesel trucks to fulfill Method’s low-emission transportation strategy for delivering its products to market.

    Method’s vision for this manufacturing facility extends far beyond its ecological benefits. Contributing to the economic and social well being of the community is also critical to the company. Currently, Method’s manufacturing facility employs 66 full-time employees, 30% of which live within the zip code of the plant. Method emphasizes the importance of hiring employees based on personality and values versus specific manufacturing or technical experience. Their philosophy is to utilize employee cross-training to help their people learn their roles.


    Our tour guide is one of these new local hires – and her joy in working in such a special place was obvious.

    On the wall in the stairwell was a mural that the employees created ,“Together we can: 
    Make a difference
    Change the world!
    Believe in each other
    Keep it weird
    Pullman Redux – but better.”

    That said it all.

    After the tour we gathered together to connect and enjoy lunch. It was great to see new faces, and rewarding to hear “this is my tribe!” Thanks to all of you who came out. What did we miss? What was your favorite moment?

    A big thank you, Andrea Spudich, for your contributions to this post and photos. Andrea is a long-time advocate for sustainability-oriented leadership development. 

  • September 06, 2015 8:28 AM | Deleted user

    An Evening of Insights with Notre Dame

    Written by Chelsea Slaggert

    Our August 27th event was something a little unique for us. We partnered with Notre Dame’s Stayer Center for Executive Education and Program Faculty Member Mel Dowdy to explore how to make purpose stick. We gathered in Notre Dame’s classroom space downtown for a night full of insights, discussions and practical applications.

    Mel Dowdy opened the evening by discussing John Mackey’s book, Conscious Capitalism. He defined two key points that stood out in the book, setting Mackey apart in his concept of leadership:

    1. Mackey had the courage to deliver: he models the courage that it takes to be a conscious leader by committing to identifying his purpose, living his purpose and living out his purpose through his leadership.
    2. Mackey engaged in constant practice: he was mindful in how he translated his personal, inner purpose into purposeful outside work. This wasn’t done through one or two actions, but through consistent striving to live his purpose as a way of life, both personally and professionally.

    The qualifying word in Conscious Capitalism is conscious; this is a call to wake up as leaders! It’s a call to be mindful of what we’re doing, be less reflexive and more intentional, less dependent on what we know or are taught to work conventionally. But how are we to do this in the midst of an increasingly complex business environment?

    Mel introduced us to the Integral Leadership model, used in Notre Dame’s leadership programs, which is a holistic approach and methodology that can help us navigate complexity by helping us define and align our values with our actions so that we may step into conscious leadership. It takes into account interior and exterior factors that affect leadership, as well as individual and collective forces:

      Interior Exterior


    What are my values?

    What sacrifices am I willing to make so as to not stand in my own way of realizing my purpose?



    How are my actions, skills and practices aligned to the purpose I intend?




    How do you create a “we” in an organization that has a sense of a shared meaning?






    How will achieving results change organizational/community capabilities?

    *Graphic adapted and used with permission.

    Mel challenged us to “wake up” and understand that we can be skillful but, if our actions and practices, or the culture we strive to create, or the sacrifices we make don’t align with our intentional inner purpose, we are wasting our time as leaders. He stressed that the way we add value through our leadership is through consistent practice of aligning our behaviors with our values.

    Mel concluded the evening by guiding the group in a thought-provoking exercise meant to help us identify our purpose and the things in our lives that hold us back from realizing and executing on that purpose – in other words, making it stick.

    For more information on Notre Dame’s Executive Education programs, visit

    To learn more about our next Conscious Capitalism Chicago event visit our Web site.


    1. Lee Capps on September 14, 2015 at 3:44 pm

      Here’s a little more on the “immunity to change”. The exercise from Robert Kegan and Lisa Lahey had us consider what we are committed to and other – potentially hidden – commitments that might be getting in the way. For instance, if I’m committed to leading in an empowering way, but I am also committed to being in control or being right, I have competing commitments that derail my primary purpose or intention – making me “immune to change”. For each of us as leaders, where are we declaring a purpose (personal or organizational) that might be in conflict with other, deeply held intentions? For our purpose to be “sticky” or fulfilled, we need to surface those competing commitments, test them and potentially let go of them.
      Thanks, Mel. Great session.

    2. Thea Polancic on September 15, 2015 at 5:31 pm

      Thanks, Chelsea, for the great summary!

      I think it’s important to add a note about John Mackey since he’s an outspoken guy and has some controversial opinions. Representing Conscious Capitalism Chicago, I often get questions about whether his perspectives are those of the Chapter – or the movement as a whole.

      Here’s what I’d say: in the context of Conscious Capitalism, we’re not holding up John as a the model for all aspects that are ideal in a leader or human being. (None of us could aspire to that.)

      However, we are saying that John is a model to look to for these two capacities of conscious leaders that Mel highlighted in his talk: John had the courage to stand for his convictions and took action to engage his fellow peers and his organization in making a difference in the world; and he stays in the game of his own growth and development. Rand Stagen frequently says “leaders get the organizations they deserve.” John lives this and has been known to say “I know I need to have a breakthrough when there’s something about Whole Foods that’s bothering me.” And then he does the work – and the business gets the benefit.

      It takes incredible courage and commitment to start a movement – to start anything. We’re deeply grateful that he did.

  • July 29, 2015 8:29 AM | Deleted user

    Are We Naturally Collaborative?

    Collaboration is often seen as a result of more conscious leadership and culture. With greater collaboration, organizations can leverage collective strengths, achieve greater results and grow with more resilience.

    My question is this: Are human beings naturally collaborative or is collaboration something that requires training, development and reinforcement?

    On one hand, it seems that we are each governed by our individual needs for survival and success. Every day we are faced with constant opportunities to choose – do we work for the whole or for our own self-interest?

    We have examples even driving to work: When we see that the lanes will narrow, do we race ahead to jump in front of the queue? Or take our turn to blend in early and endure a few extra minutes of waiting?

    Collaboration requires a healthy tension between self-interest and the greater good. Both are required. I do need to survive and be successful – and the team or organizational needs to succeed as well. These two “poles” are interdependent.

    What is our natural state?

    I say we are naturally collaborative. Here’s my evidence: I watch my grandchildren. Early on, children are totally dependent on those around them for everything. As they develop their own competency – feeding themselves, walking, mastering language – they begin to assert more independence, while remaining open to help and challenge. They don’t see falling down as a problem. At some point, though, their identities begin to form, creating a sense that “I can do it” or – perhaps more accurately – “I should be able to do it”. The old “looking good” attitude makes the scene.

    We each develop attitudes early in life that begin to erode our natural openness to collaboration.

    “I’m smart.” “I’ll show them.” “They’ll think I’m stupid.”

    These are not bad attitudes, but they inhibit our openness to asking for or offering help and admitting mistakes or acknowledging weaknesses. When are we naturally collaborative?

    When we feel safe and free to be ourselves. When our environment feels threatening, we focus on self-preservation. When we feel cared for, we take the risk of counting on others.

    Hence the importance of conscious leadership and culture – to create an environment that will help us each feel free to be ourselves, to focus on the greater good and to contribute from our strengths.

    What do you think?

  • June 30, 2015 8:32 AM | Deleted user

    Conscious Capitalism: “Do Both”

    Conscious Capitalism – “Do Both”

    Rand Stagen, CEO of Stagen, founder of the Integral Leadership Academy and founder and board member of Conscious Capitalism, Inc., was in Chicago this past week. Lucky for us, he agreed to spend some time with our executive members at our Q2 Executive Breakfast on June 26th.

    At one point in the conversation he said – “It’s not enough to be a conscious company. You have to have a great business model and be able to execute. Conscious Capitalism. DO BOTH.” I just love this. So much so that we’re going to get some t-shirts printed with it. Meghan and Maren, co-founders of Conscious Company Magazine were there too. I wouldn’t be surprised if we see an issue devoted to this in the future.

    It’s time to pay some attention to the second “C” in Conscious Capitalism.  It feels like much of what’s out there about Conscious Capitalism emphasizes the importance of having a purpose, values and mindful culture – yet forgets that we have to have a great strategy, market differentiation, products and execution too. Doug Rauch, CEO of Conscious Capitalism, Inc. said to me earlier in the month, “Is it enough to have a great culture? Will that absolutely cause you to do better than your competitors? Not necessarily. You have to have a great business model too.”

    Not long ago, I had the good fortune of spending some time with Jay Goltz, Founder and CEO of The Goltz Group, which includes Chicago Art Source and Jayson Home. Jay is a sought after speaker about entrepreneurship and conscious business. It was a Friday afternoon and I was meeting Jay for the first time and introducing him to Conscious Capitalism. Jay is an energetic guy and jumped right in challenging the ideas as he tried to get a sense of what we were talking about. When he read our description of what the movement is about that said, “Business can and should be done with a higher purpose in mind, not just with a view to maximizing profits” He said, “Hey wait! It should say, business should have a higher purpose as well as maximizing profits!” I loved his unapologetic enthusiasm for the business of conscious business. If we’re really seeking to make a lasting difference in the world, we have to last.

    Rand Stagen’s message to our CEOs last Friday morning was about the awesome responsibility and complexity of conscious leadership – that it’s no small feat to be able to be a great businessperson and an enlightened person.  That’s the essence of the fourth pillar of Conscious Capitalism – “Conscious Leadership.” It’s not just about servant leadership, but also about being able to balance opposing ideas like thinking and feeling, freedom and responsibility, purpose andprofit.

    1 Comment

    1. Holly Jordan on August 19, 2015 at 3:33 am

      As we work with clients on sales development we find that this gap isn’t unusual. That when “Conscious Selling” includes metrics and measures and sales process it doesn’t mean it excludes allowing employees to feel empowered. That in fact these measures and metrics and process are mile markers on the road to sales success and keep you on target.
      Balancing clear sales strategy and enlightenment is the path to true “Conscious Selling”.
      We are interviewing companies now for our research paper on this topic. More to come. #consciousselling #balance

  • June 29, 2015 8:34 AM | Deleted user

    June Event: What We Learned

    Caption: This image is of the Vulnerability Wall from the 2015 Conscious Capitalism conference in April.

    CCC Slide Deck – 6-17-15

    The goal of our June event was to provide a small group venue to talk about the theories and ideas put forward at the national conference in April. The presentation is posted above.

    Holly Jordan, Chicago Chapter Program Committee Member, presented the most inspiring points from Simon Sinek at the April conference.  

    Additional thoughts from the group included:

    • Virtue produces more results and takes a different mindset. And it is harder to lead from this place.
    • Leaders need to trust that their employees. If they do, people will be more productive and elevate their performance.
    • You have to create an environment so that the circle of trust isn’t neatly round. We need to respect our employees and acknowledge they are human.
    • If we stay in fight or flight perpetually, it is bad for our health and productivity.
    • The more that employees feel the mission of the organization and the values, the people want to give.
    • If people could go home and feel good about what they’ve done, they are going to thrive.

    Thea Polancic, Chair of Conscious Capitalism Chicago, and Paula Golub, Principal at Golub & Company, showcased 15 personal principles shared from Melissa Reiff, President & COO of The Container Store.
    1. Security
    2. Confidence
    3. Positive Attitude
    4. Maturity
    5. Focus
    6. Courage
    7. Sweet
    8. Communication
    9. Tenacity
    10. Humor

    11. Agility
    12. Creativity
    13. Commitment
    14. Inspiration
    15. Passion

    Additional thoughts from the group included:

    • The Container Store opening events are an inspiring and unique example of a company appreciating all of their stakeholders.
    • Sometimes when we hear people talk about running a company like a parent, it can come across condescending, but it isn’t if it is done well.
    • Some of us are still engaging with learning and working to identify with being conscious. Some of us have been trying to make it happen for 20 years. This is the long view and a slow journey
    • Communication is a big struggle. We can do better in telling our stories and communicating
    • It is key to slow down when we are busiest. If we go fast, we will create more mistakes and cause more work for tomorrow. We need to give people permission to slow down.

    Lee Capps, Program Chair for Conscious Capitalism Chicago, presented the ideas from Bob Chapman, Chairman and CEO of Barry-Wehmiller about how to lead a conscious business every day, and what goes into his secret sauce. 

    Additional thoughts from the group included:

    • We should look to our team members to help come up with solutions to our challenges.
    • Nick Sarillo of Nick’s Pizza and Pub provided an example. Using The Great Game of Business, their team members regularly look at the P&L and see what metrics could be taken on by team members to help improve the company.
    • Acting within the values of Conscious Capitalism can be overwhelming. It can be hard to determine where we are and where we want to be. Bob’s presentation – outlining how he works across cities, industries and cultures help us recognize if he can do it, we can do it.
    • A lot of leaders in Chicago have been doing this because it was the right way you do business. But there are people that see this as new.
    • Companies are trying to find ways to tell their employees they are loved.
    • People that are working for good companies could be making more money somewhere else. But they work for less because they feel strongly about the organization’s purpose.
    • The Millennial generation wants to work for a place that makes them feel good. But they aren’t the only ones!


    The group talked about a myriad of great resources. 

    • Bob Chapman’s book, Everybody Matters, will be coming out in October. Click here to pre-order the book.
    • During the national conference, we contributed to “Vulnerability Wall”. Click here to read about the role of vulnerability in business from Corey Blake, Founder of Round Table CompaniesKeith Ferazzi was also mentioned as working a lot in vulnerability.
    • Melissa Reiff put her personal principles forward, but to read more about the Container Store Foundation Principles, visit their Web site. We also mentioned CEO Kip Tindell’s book, Uncontainable. More about that book here.
    • Our Web site is always a great resource – visit our new blog.

  • May 29, 2015 8:37 AM | Deleted user

    June 17 Event: Bringing Ideas to Life

    Did you miss the April Conscious Capitalism 2015 Conference?

    This is your opportunity to hear highlights and key takeaways about the importance of purpose in organization – and human – effectiveness.  We’ll review some of the key discussions from keynote speakers Bob Chapman, Simon Sinek and Raj Sisodia.

    Did you attend the April Conscious Capitalism 2015 Conference?

    This is your chance to relive inspirational moments, pull out your notes, and plan to put the ideas into practice. Bring your notes and come for a great practical discussion!


    We’ll start with an overview of the themes and then break out into small group discussions led by local strategic facilitators.

    When: June 17th, 5:30-8:00 pm

    Location Edelman Chicago Offices

    200 E. Randolph St, 63rd Floor, Chicago, IL 60601

    Cost:  $35 general admission; $25 for members

    (Light appetizers and refreshments included.)

    Join the Chicago Chapter today and receive $10 off the price of this event!

  • May 25, 2015 8:40 AM | Deleted user

    Vulnerability is sexy

    Vulnerability is sexy. Yep. Stay with me here.

    Mostly we tend to want to hide our vulnerabilities for fear of ridicule and disconnection (at least that’s true for me). Or, fear of actually feeling feelings that make us uncomfortable like grief, disappointment, and worse, shame–the ultimate disconnector!

    Yet it’s our vulnerabilities, our openness to life as it unfolds, that provides us a sense of aliveness, joy and creativity.

    Check out the picture to your right. It’s from the Vulnerability is Sexy wall at the Conscious Capitalism Conference I attended earlier this spring here in Chicago, a business conference of all things.    

    At check-in participants received a bright teal postcard asking us to write down our vulnerabilities. Amazingly, people wrote them out!

    Throughout the conference Corey Blake and his Round Table artists were creating this wall from those bright teal postcards. At every break folks were checking out the artwork, the sentiments shared and talking about them.

    While conversations at the conference ranged from business to branding, values we all share stood out: to do good work in the world, to have clean water and air, to care for our children and parents, to not only belong to a community but to contribute in meaningful ways–and to live life fully.

    All these conversations had at the center the commitment to what I’d call an ethic of right action and love, especially the ones at the wall. By publicly sharing our vulnerabilities, now artistically captured on the wall, what was perceived as weakness or disdainful or a simply a secret to be hidden away, became a source of energy and connection.

    Our strength and frailty as human beings, our foibles and idiosyncrasies are our creative source for engaging with life as it unfolds each moment. Our willingness to stand right at the edge of what makes us most uncomfortable is the training we need to engage most deeply with those around us, to offer ourselves and our contributions to the larger world, whether in business, teaching, community service, health care, . . . . to stand in dignity in our place in the world.

    Our interconnection is not only obvious and necessary, it’s good business. It’s healing to the world and likely to the planet. It requires owning our vulnerabilities . . . . .admitting mistakes and failures, acknowledging not being an expert and maybe needing help, owning our difficulty with emotions at times and other people often . . . yes, our vulnerabilities connect us to ourselves and what it means to be human and compelling.

    And that’s pretty sexy.

  • May 12, 2015 8:44 AM | Deleted user

    What is a B Corp Company?

    By voluntarily meeting higher standards of transparency, accountability, and performance, Certified B Corps are distinguishing themselves in a cluttered marketplace by offering a positive vision of a better way to do business. Want to learn more?

    Bring a friend to this month’s B Corp Social and Outreach Event and hear more about the local Illinois B Corp community, network with a passionate group of people using business as a force for good, and learn what it takes to become part of this growing global movement. The event will be hosted by Avenue, a brand strategy firm in River North, from 6-8 p.m. Tickets are $10.

    Register here

    You can visit the B Corp Web site for even more information. 

  • May 10, 2015 8:50 AM | Deleted user

    Heard from Tony Schwartz, The Energy Project…

    At Conscious Capitalism 2015, which was held in Chicago April 7-9, Tony Schwartz from The Energy Project took the stage. He didn’t just slowly step onto the platform. He didn’t shake someone’s hand and then turn to the audience. He walked purposefully into the room from the back doors. “Happy” by Pharrell Williams was playing loudly on the overhead speakers. As he walked up the long aisle, his arms were raised above his head, clapping to the beat. Within seconds, the audience of 400 was on its feet. Full of energy.

    A fitting start to a presentation from the man who founded The Energy Project. Here are some of the fantastic ideas Tony shared.

    “About Capacity”

    We take capacity for granted. If you don’t have sufficient capacity, you have a problem.

    We need to find a rhythmic relationship between stress and recovery. Not too much stress or too much rest, but the ability to make intermittent waves between them.

    Most of us see stress as the enemy, but we need it to help us grow and expand our capacity.

    It isn’t just the number of hours, but the energy we are capable of bringing in those hours.

    If we are running on empty, we breakdown, burn out and get sick.

    “About Leadership Virtues”

    No virtue is one by itself.

    When we are tired, burned out, threatened, our strengths are in overdrive. We are unable to ask what else might be true.

    Good leaders hold flexible movement between thinking and feeling. They see more and exclude less.

    Good leaders need to go deeper, wider and longer.
    If you want to read more about Tony, check out his blog.

  • April 22, 2015 9:15 AM | Deleted user

    Heard from Simon Mainwaring, We First Branding…

    • When forming an idea, think about the world, the industry, the region, the community, the market, the company, the employee. And then, consider, “if this is the world we live in, what role does our brand play?”
    • Define a story worth telling to be a brand worth sharing. How well you tell your story determines how well consumers share your story.
    • A company’s brands need alignment; they should ladder up to one shared purpose.
    • When you are presenting an idea, present it as a solution. Tell the story around what you’re helping to solve, and then back into their need. Offer co-authorship and co-creation.
    • A brand must be the chief celebrant, not the celebrity, of its consumer community.
    • Build a mission with a company, not a company with a mission.

    Want to read more from Simon? Get his book – We First – or visit his Web page. Or attend his upcoming conference the Brand Leadership Summit in October.

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    Want to be part of more discussions like this? Come to the next Conscious Capitalism Chicago event!

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