Thursday, September 17, 2015

The Yoga of Profit

Yoga of profit

"Every investment we make is a statement of intention, a statement of purpose, a speculation about the future of humanity and our role in the scheme of things, not merely a financial speculation" - Woody Tasch, Slow Money

Do you have a few hundred, a few thousand or maybe 10’s or 100’s of thousands of dollars in a savings or retirement account? What is that money doing? What is your intention for that money?

Money has power. More power then a vote. More power then a protest. More power then a war.

Don’t judge something…do something!

The only way to enjoy the long term annualized growth of the companies (which we fund) who have the biggest effect on our lives… invest in them. The best way to influence their intention…invest in the right ones!

For the longest time I wondered how my deepening yoga practice, how this inward journey, translated into the capitalist world I enjoyed and depended on, and the financial industry where I had worked for 15 years. Besides, as aware of my own footprint on the environment and my influence on others, I still drive a car, fly on airplanes, purchase packaged goods, eat food from far away and am totally addicted to a never ending flow of water and electricity. And how much do I really do to improve the lives of others in the community around me. I’m inclined to donate to charities or hand money to a homeless person, but I certainly don’t take 30 minutes of my time and sit with that person and talk over a cup of coffee. Sure I try hard to temper my consumption and consider the providers’ footprint, but whether I'm flying on the most environmentally responsible airline or whether I’m careful about which gas station I use, I am still taking. How much taking is OK? Where is the line?

Then it occurred to me. How our contemplative practice translates into capitalism is very much the same as how it manifests within us. Corporations are living organisms, the sum of all their employees who are like their cells. As our practice transforms us, then surely a corporation that practices mindfulness must transform into a being that feels better and is more compassionate. I had a hard time believing that business people had not figured this out and used it to their competitive advantage or more so that there were high level executives or decision makers whose contemplative practice drove a successful management style.

After two years of research I am happy to report that there are publicly traded companies, household brand names that are humble, that are compassionate and that embody social and environmental responsibility. This small but growing list is companies who put the community and environment ahead of profit. They are driven by building sustainable business’s with the manifesto of increasing our well being and preserving the environment. As Aetna CEO, Mark Bertolini said at Wisdom 2.0, “Profit is not the goal, profit is the output of a mission driven organization who delivers consistent products to its customers”

What are the indicators? A combination of qualitative and quantitative evaluation including financial strength, products that are unequivocally good for us, the lowest possible use of natural resources, happy employees, women make up twenty percent of the board, low CEO pay - relatively, company wide offering of yoga/mindfulness, humble CEOs and a C-suite who have a personal contemplation practice, and compassionate intention written into their Form 10-K annual report. That's the quantitative. Qualitative is reading between the lines, by scanning the news and blogs for indications of embodied social and environmental responsibility, by hearing feedback from users of their products and services. Looking for indications of yogic decision-making. Checking off the yamas and niyamas, the eight-fold path, the middle way, the golden rule.

My research has resulted in an investment portfolio of companies. Companies I invest in and share with others. I feel more confident investing in humble companies with strong ethics, and I am much less afraid of loosing my investment especially when the market crashes. This portfolio has opened my eyes to companies who really care and I always choose their products. Often I will go without a product or service if a compassionate company does not offer it. I plug these companies on social networks for their intention. I go out of my way to give them feedback; quite often they don’t know what they don’t know. Our guidance is important. My hope that a company’s mission, rather then its earnings and products become what its brand name represents.

Corporations have more influence on our well-being and future than anybody except ourselves. There are companies out there who have transcended the “profit at all cost” approach perfected during the industrial revolution. We can play a bigger role in our evolution by investing in the companies that care, by being more mindful of how we spend our money and by bringing awareness through dialogue to the potential of the corporate world helping us into the next age.

"As long as the way we invest is divorced from how we live and how we consume our befuddlement will worsen" - Woody Tasch, Slow Money

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