Published: March 14, 2014

Story Contributor: Dave Payne, CESR Faculty

Students from regional universities as well as community members turned out at the Conscious Capitalism Symposium to learn how talented leaders have used the traditional tools of capitalism to serve social needs. Taking place the last day of the four-day Conscious Capitalism Conference, headlining speakers included James Autry, Author of The Book of Hard Choices, Patricia Aburdene, Author of Conscious Money: Living, Creating and Investing with Your Values for a Sustainable New Prosperity, Beth Jensen, Director of Corporate Responsibility of the Outdoor Industry Association (OIA), Dana Watts, Executive Director of Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics, and Dawn Bitz, Owner of Grasshaven Outdoors. The day’s activities were facilitated by Dave Payne, a CESR faculty member.

An organizer of the event and CESR faculty member Liz Stapp commented, “Sustainability is often described in terms of ‘People, Profit, and Planet.’ This year's conference focused on those three pillars of sustainability.  We discussed ‘People’ and the significance of relationship building with James Autry's keynote on ‘Hard Choices.’  We addressed ‘Profit’ through Patricia Aburdene's presentation on the business case for Conscious Capitalism.  Finally, we addressed the ‘Planet’ through the outdoor industry panel and its take on the opportunities and challenges surrounding sustainability in the industry.  It was an amazing opportunity for the attendees to discuss the myriad approaches towards sustainability and conscious capitalism.”

Symposium participants were treated to a robust program that grounded the vision of conscious capitalism with frameworks, tactics and illustrative case stories. Mr. Autry's inspiring keynote began by bringing the group together around shared values and principles, while he encouraged an increased consciousness / mindfulness in our business behavior. He reminded us that ethics must be grounded in behavior, and that conscious business only arises out of "institutional ethical behavior" – when individuals and groups act ethically, guided by concrete and actionable statements of vision, purpose, mission and values. A subsequent group work session challenged table groups to tackle classic ethical dilemmas in the workplace, and Mr. Autry provided feedback and advice to workgroups as they reported out their findings.

“One of my favorite scenes from this year's Conscious Capitalism Symposium:  a Leeds MBA student, a CSU undergrad, community members, a seasoned executive, a non-profit director and a faculty member -- all gathered around one table wrestling with a business dilemma that required bringing together our diverse perspectives and unique values,” observed Birdie Reznicek, a CESR faculty member.

"The networking opportunities at the Symposium were amazing.  I was sitting at a table with students, faculty members, and business professionals.  We were charged with working together to solve an ethical dilemma.  With so many unique perspectives, it was fascinating to tackle this challenge as a group,” noted Nan Stout, an event organizer and CESR faculty member.

The mid-morning panel discussion had three leading representatives from the outdoor industry sharing their practical wisdom on subjects ranging from pre-competitive corporate collaboration and innovation, to NGO-business partnerships, to the challenges of being an “ecopreneur” in a highly competitive marketplace. The final speaker, Ms. Aburdene used the frameworks and findings from her book Megatrends 2010: The Rise of Conscious Capitalism to distill the key trends and opportunities in the current and ongoing transformation of business. The conference then broke into a highly interactive luncheon, during which time participants engaged in lively conversations with each other and the morning’s speakers. Dave Payne provided concluding remarks, presenting keywords and core concepts heard repeated throughout the day, organized into a simple framework of meaningful change.

Other events during the week of the Conscious Capitalism Conference included the Film & Feedback event, the Business Ethics Case Competition, the Career Panel, and the Sustainability Showcase.