What is the Key to Unleashing Stakeholder Value?

By Jeff Klein

Short answer: Love and care.

Earlier this month at the Lost Pines outside Austin, Texas, Conscious Capitalism, Inc convened the 5th Annual Conscious Capitalism CEO Summit, with 100-plus business leaders. Presentations and conversations on the theme of the Summit – Unleashing Stakeholder Value – reflected on the interdependent nature of business and Professor Ed Freeman’s insight that “Capitalism and business are the greatest form of social cooperation ever created.”

The most inspiring and encouraging perspective emerged from the combined insights of the most successful company-builders and leaders at the Summit, which included John Mackey and Walter Robb, co-CEOs of Whole Foods Market, Colleen Barrett, President Emeritus of Southwest Airlines, Howard Behar, Former President of Starbucks, Blake Nordstrom, CEO of Nordstrom, Inc., Ron Shaich, Founder and Executive Chairman of Panera Bread Company, and Doug Rauch, Former President of Trader Joe’s and current CEO, Conscious Capitalism, Inc.

My summary of their insights, based on their experience building and leading multi-billion-dollar businesses, with tens of thousands of employees: Love and care are the keys to building a wildly successful business, which creates value for all of its interdependent stakeholders. 

This insight reflects growing recognition of the human social underpinnings and purpose of business, and of the power of human connection for creating value and building a resilient and sustainable business.

Unleashing stakeholder value is a process of activating people to bring their intelligence, energy, creativity and other resources to the business ecosystem to create value for themselves, each other and the system (i.e. business).

Customers bring their needs, desires and expectations, as well as their money and other feedback to a business, which drive innovation, quality and dependability to respond to and fulfill their demand. Employees bring their creative, productive energy, intelligence and presence to a business, forming the corpus that fulfills the functions of the business and serving as the interface with customers, vendors and others. Suppliers serve as channels for resource inputs, vendors serve as conduits to the marketplace for products and services. Investors, communities, the environment and other stakeholders bring their respective needs and resources to the business ecosystem.  Through the interplay of these stakeholders, energy, information and resources flow through the system, creating value for all and enhancing the vitality of the system – building healthy, sustainable businesses.

An understanding of the interrelated and interdependent nature of business and of its human foundations, coupled with an understanding about human needs and human motivation, and practical experience building successful, large organizations, leads to the embodied understanding that love and care are the keys to building a wildly successful business, which creates value for all of its interdependent stakeholders. Since we are all part of the interdependent system and process that is business, we can all play a part in cultivating cultures of love and caring in the businesses we build, work for, buy from and otherwise engage with. We are business and business is us. How we show up in business, is how business will show up in the world.

In my next two posts in this series, I will continue the introduction to Stakeholder Engagement Marketing™, which I began in my last post.

Please join me for It’s Just Good Business at the en*theos Academy and join us for conversation on our Facebook page.

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