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Conscious Capitalism: Liberating the Heroic Spirit of Business

3.87  ·  Rating details ·  2,324 ratings  ·  216 reviews
A Wall Street Journal Bestseller

In this book, Whole Foods Market cofounder John Mackey and professor and Conscious Capitalism, Inc. cofounder Raj Sisodia argue for the inherent good of both business and capitalism. Featuring some of today’s best-known companies, they illustrate how these two forces can—and do—work most powerfully to create value for all stakeholders: inclu

Hardcover, 368 pages
Published January 15th 2013 by Harvard Business Review Press (first published December 25th 2012)
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Mar 16, 2016 rated it it was ok
I read this book in an effort to catch up on recent thinking around Sustainable business strategy and practices. There aren't as many books as I'd hoped to find on this topic (please send recommendations if you have any). I actually really liked the central idea of this book and I did find some interesting insights, but it was sadly devoid of evidence and full of hokey, prescriptive spiritual buzzwords. Ultimately, the amount of eye-rolling this book inspired has probably left me with damaged vi ...more
Jun 16, 2013 rated it it was ok
Disappointed with this book. Why? Well:

1) I assumed the book would talk about many different case studies of different companies utilizing conscious capitalism. NO! Instead, dear John Mackey talked so much about Whole Foods and how great it is, blahblahblah, that I felt the book needed a better subtitle: "How Whole Foods Does it".

2) HUGE section devoted to shareholders, very small sections for all the other tenets of conscious capitalism. Come on, Mackey and Sisodia: if you're going to say all f
Jim Ainsworth
Oct 31, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Whole Foods CEO Mackey and Co-Founder of Conscious Capitalism Sisodia teamed to write a book that should be read by every working American, no matter where they are on the wage scale or organization chart.

As I turned the first page, I was a little hesitant for two reasons. First, Whole Foods and Mackey have been portrayed as a “hippie” culture. I expected a lot of esoteric drivel that has little to do with the world of business. Mackey does mention Holotropic Breathwork, usually associated with
Apr 18, 2017 rated it did not like it
Shelves: read-2017
I don't even know where to begin.
Christine Bader
Feb 18, 2013 rated it it was ok
The starting premise of "Conscious Capitalism" will be enough to turn off many: that business is "fundamentally good and ethical." It is true that economic development has lifted millions out of poverty. But business has also harmed individuals and communities around the world, as demonstrated by mining accidents from West Virginia to Africa, labor abuses in factories from China to New York, and the global financial crisis.

Saying that business is "inherently virtuous" because it has helped some
Fred Forbes
Jan 16, 2014 rated it really liked it
Capitalism has probably raised the standard of living of more people than any system yet devised by man but even Adam Smith, renowned champion of the free market folks, realized that pure capitalism of "bloody tooth and claw" needed some restraint, usually via regulatory action. Still that has not prevented the type of excess we now see throughout the system as "gunslinger" management with the focus on their pocketbooks to the expense of others and the short term focus which has ground the middl ...more
Rachel Terry
Jan 10, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: sociology
I really enjoyed the first third or so if this book. It convincingly refutes the current popular notion that business is evil by laying out the incredible advances in the human condition since free market capitalism has been around (vast reductions in poverty and illiteracy and incredible advances in education and standard of living). He points out that the things people don't like about capitalism are actually the result of what he calls, "crony capitalism," which is capitalism tainted by gover ...more
Mark Skousen
Jan 25, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I just reviewed John Mackey's new bestseller, "Conscious Capitalism: Liberating the Herioc Spirit of Business" (Harvard Business Press) in Feb. 2 issue of Barron's (forthcoming). I'll post the link when it comes out. "Conscious Capitalism" is revolutionary in changing the brand of capitalism and taking it to a new level. John Mackey will be at FreedomFest once again this year, where we have dozens of new authors speak.....C-SPAN Book TV will be there this year (July 10-13, Caesars Palace, Las Ve ...more
Aug 15, 2017 rated it really liked it
Written by the Whole Foods founder, Conscious Capitalism urges companies to at the gist of it, have more empathy with fellow human beings. This book captures the impetus behind the rise of the number companies who do good from the very core, not just including for benefit corporations, but also Walmart!! (Whole foods founder praising walmart?!). With the recent acquisition by Amazon, it will be interesting to see how a company steeped in its beliefs and core values deal with Amazon's priority on ...more
May 13, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a really great book. I gave it three stars because it had quite a bit of inspirational material that I thought could have been omitted or assigned to another book. That's just my opinion. Maybe others will find those parts indispensable. In any case, I think this book is beginning to change my view of business. For a long time, I've thought that beneficent businesses were possible but idealistic and only workable on a small scale: only folks with personality disorders (narcissism, sociop ...more
Jun 23, 2014 rated it did not like it
I was given this book as a gift and I had looked forward to reading it. The first 20 pages or so were imaginative, yet it quickly disappointed. I felt like I was back in the late '90's reading a book that fell in to the genre of "Emotional Intelligence". There were a whole spate of books that came out in the 90's that claimed to explain how to be successful in the workplace and corporate culture. John Mackey (or his ghost writer) were overly pretentious, continually applauding the way the chose ...more
Brianna Silva
If you want to understand why I'm not only pro-capitalism, but believe deeply in ethical business as a force for good in the world; and you want to get an idea for what my own philosophy is on business, and what a great business looks like; this book, right here, is a fair place to start.

Edit: Upon further reflection I do feel like this book largely preaches to the choir, and its arguments may not be convincing to someone who already has a very different philosophy 🤔🤔 So 🤔 caveat there... it pro
Fanie Oosthuysen
Nov 25, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This book should be mandatory reading in all school curriculums. With more in depth analysis in all universities. Although the authors "hippy" still shines through and there are lots of little thought critiques I can offer about my disagreements on not eating meat and the continuous “limited resource” comments- The universes resources are so vast that in our context I’ll call them inexhaustible. This book is still a must read.
Josh Bersin
Dec 15, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Among many books, this one really changed my thinking about business. It was one of the first times I realized that "making a profit" was not really the true goal of a corporation. It's a little old but definitely the iconic thinking that brings us to our current discussion about responsibility in business.
Nov 19, 2017 rated it liked it
The authors propose that the current model of capitalism is struggling and that businesses need to follow a re-freshed, re-badged form of capitalism which focusses on the organisation having a higher purpose, appreciating the role of ALL stakeholders to a business including suppliers, being a leader who appreciates this approach and focussing on company culture.

While I think the approach proposed is a good one I found the writing in this book a bit loose sometimes and the examples used didn't al
John Stepper
Mar 10, 2019 rated it liked it
I very much appreciate the direction the authors are advocating. And I liked the stories from Whole Foods, a store I visit frequently, and whose service and employees I like very much.

And I would have liked even more stories and details. More quotes form employees and customers and other stakeholders, and perhaps less advocating for why “business is good.”

If you like the ideas behind this book, I highly recommend “Everybody Matters,” which is a detailed account of a manufacturing company, Barr
Stephen P
Jul 29, 2017 rated it really liked it
A thorough explanation of Whole Foods social-values based business philosophy and view of capitalism, which contains many admirable principles. The question remains, is it a sustainable business philosophy? Conscious Capitalism was written before significant competition entered the niche and Whole Foods was the price setter. Since written, other grocers have entered and Whole Foods sales and profits have diminished as a result. So it remains to be seen if the cost structure associated with consc ...more
Apr 07, 2020 rated it really liked it
I love the thesis of the book - conscious capitalism. It really is the defense of capitalism, and the explanation of why the business world needs to change, that many have been waiting for and trying to articulate. However, there were times where it was a big hard to get through and it became a little too philosophical. More examples would have been helpful.
Athan Tolis
Mar 10, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: business
A preachy book about management, not capitalism.

I'm frustrated by what's been happening with capitalism. I'm old enough to remember the times when some of us had to defend capitalism against what many believed to be sensible alternatives and it makes me sick to the stomach to watch a cabal of no more than ten thousand big money investors and their CEO puppets do some truly nasty things in the name of capitalism.

Other than call today's state of capitalism by its name (crony capitalism) this book
Nov 16, 2019 rated it liked it
Excellent gems of wisdom in a book about how companies can put people and planet before profits -- and yet the profits still follow. The author is Whole Foods Market co-founder John Mackey, so expect many of the examples throughout the book to be from a WFM perspective.
Apr 07, 2013 rated it liked it
Well, this was interesting in terms of the case studies racked up. Certainly the writing makes _Leaning In_ look like a candidate for the Pritzker Prize--yes, the prize that rewards good architecture. Cause CC doesn't have one. I think the many people who have praised this book just haven't read many books of the entrepreneur genre, as the insights that business is "fundamentally good and ethical" seemed rather gateway to me--if a timely reminder of the "higher calling" that many of the 1% incre ...more
Mike Tannenbaum
Feb 05, 2018 rated it liked it
Decent book for an introduction to better ways of running organizations. Nothing groundbreaking, though, especially for someone who reads a ton about capitalism, organizational dynamics, and complex systems. Also, the fact that the authors site Walmart as a "conscious" company really angered me. They've done so much damage in the past, a little bit of good nowadays doesn't really earn them the reward.

All in all, I liked that this book got me to think about capitalism as an effective system. It w
Feb 27, 2014 rated it really liked it
The title of Conscious Capitalism: Liberating the Heroic Spirit of Business begs the question, “Really?” With corporate greed and misdeeds undermining American’s faith in capitalism it’s not easy to envision business as the hero of the story. As I picked up the book, I thought to myself, “Sounds too good to be true, convince me”.

The Bottom Line

The idea of all stakeholders, including the environment, benefiting from conscious capitalism is compelling. It appeals to the human desire to work togeth
The American Conservative
'Having read dozens of business books over the years, I can say with considerable authority that Conscious Capitalism is the most ambitious management model ever conceived, and if implemented it could catapult the world of business to what Adam Smith described eloquently as the “highest degree of opulence.”

Indeed, if Mackey’s application of higher consciousness had been in the boardroom a generation ago, I like to think that we could have avoided the suffocating regulations of Sarbanes-Oxley an
Feb 10, 2013 rated it really liked it
This is an interesting book by the founder of Whole Foods. Mackay has a series of principles which he believes will remake capitalism. When you go into a Whole Foods you see many of those ideas in practice. And indeed, among major grocers, Whole Foods has a conscientious attention to quality and service.

What concerned me about the book is that many of his principles are already well established. This is an interesting personal memoir. It has some good ideas about how to conduct an ethical busine
This is a book that needs to be read by those that think capitalism is a blight on the world and those who tend to idolize profit as their God. Mackey and Sisodia show effectively how the break down in capitalism is truly not a pure capitalism but a bastardized crony capitalism. At the same time, they are able to show how business is truly at it's best when it is motivated not just by profits but by having a 'conscious' while striving to bring value to all stakeholders. This is the business mode ...more
Aug 03, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Mackey makes excellent points about the social benefits to be derive from a profit model that considers that good of all its stakeholders, and not exclusively the pocketbook of the stockholders. He does get a bit preachy from time to time, for example I recall hearing at least three times that we ought not derive more then 10 percent of our caloric intake from animal products, and there were several invocations of spirituality (naturally without Christ) that had me wondering if Whole Foods might ...more
Jewel Miller
Mar 18, 2016 rated it it was amazing
This book illustrates how the word "Capitalism" has evolved to be said with a sneer. There is a negative emotional reaction to the thought. Conscious Capitalism describes a way of doing business that removes all positions of "Us v. Them". Labor v. Management, Quality v. Cost, Morals v. Profits, Production v. Environment. If you consider all individuals involved with your business as a stakeholder in the business, with no one individual being more important than any other, you can have a Win/Win/ ...more
Jul 13, 2018 rated it it was ok
Really disappointed in this book, I enjoyed Yvon Chouinard's "Let My People Go Surfing" and was hoping for a personal tale with many lessons I could take away from. Unfortunately, this book full of self-congratulating platitudes, I couldn't get through 50 pages without wanting to gag.

Everything interesting in this book can be found on the podcast "How I Built This", skip this and read something actually useful like "Companies We Keep: Employee Ownership and the Business of Community and Place"
Jan 18, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Loved it, but then again I was already down with the philosophy. I think it's an important book for lots of people to read and at least try to challenge certain black/white assumptions about what GOOD capitalism and entrepreneurship really is (opposed to the prevailing notions and politicized and polarized opinions these days).

Review on here:
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Leadership Book Club: Conscious Capitalism Discussion 1 2 Oct 02, 2019 09:21AM  

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“I realized that with everything I did from that point onward, I would have to ask myself this question: "How would I feel if what I'm doing right now is written up on the front page of the Wall Street Journal or the New York Times or if it is on television? Would I still do it?" That is a very useful exercise for leaders to engage in, because we shouldn't do anything we might be embarrassed by or ashamed of.” 4 likes
“Business can be a wonderful vehicle for both personal and organizational learning and growth. I have experienced many more awakenings as Whole Foods has grown and evolved over the past three decades. We will share some of these throughout the book. Most importantly, I have learned that life is short and that we are simply passing through here. We cannot stay. It is therefore essential that we find guides whom we can trust and who can help us discover and realize our higher purposes in life before it is too late. In my early twenties, I made what has proven to have been a wise decision: a lifelong commitment to follow my heart wherever it led me—which has been on a wonderful journey of adventure, purpose, creativity, growth, and love. I have come to understand that it is possible to live in this world with an open, loving heart. I have learned that we can channel our deepest creative impulses in loving ways toward fulfilling our higher purposes, and help evolve the world to a better place.” 3 likes
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