“What’s being born is…something that we can feel in many places across Planet Earth. This future is not just about firefighting and tinkering with the surface of structural change. It’s not just about replacing one mindset that no longer serves us with another. It’s a future that requires us to tap into a deeper level of our humanity, of who we really are and who we want to be as a society. It is a future that we can sense, feel and actualize by shifting the inner place from which we operate. It is a future that in those moments of disruption begins to presence itself through us.” – Otto Scharmer in his new book, Leading from the Emerging Future. 1
Good companies make quite a lot of money for their shareholders
Great companies make HUGE amounts of money for their shareholders
But in the process of making huge amounts of money:
- millions of employees are overworked and underpaid
- the planet is being destroyed
- products are being made that are bad for our health – because cheap substitute ingredients are used as they increase the company’s profit
There is nothing very good or great about this.
Smart business people, who care about other people and the planet as well as making a profit, are developing new ways of running businesses that have happy employees and happy customers, do not harm the planet and also do make a profit. As the number of these types of businesses increases, it has turned into a movement: The Conscious Capitalism Movement 2
The 4 main pillars of Conscious Capitalism are:
1. Higher purpose and core values,
2. Stakeholder integration,
3. Conscious culture and management,
4. Conscious leadership.
These companies realise how important great relationships are and invest significant effort to build strong relationships between the company and its employees, the company and its clients and the company and its suppliers.
In a company, every relationship the company has needs to be embodied in a legal contract. The contract contains the “rules” of the relationship. It sets out what everyone has to do and how they should do it so that the relationship is fair and all parties know what to expect and feel good about playing their part to the best of their ability.
So what is the problem?
All companies, including the Conscious Capitalist Companies leave the writing of these contracts to their legal department. The legal department is full of lawyers who are trained to be Fighters. Lawyers who are trained to see each party as an adversary and each negotiation as a situation in which people must fight to defend their rights, a world in which there can only be one winner and the lawyer needs to make sure that his client is the winner.
We can see this in the contracts companies have with their customers. These are often called T & C’s or terms and conditions. They are written in very tiny writing and are not about being friendly and fair. They are about a power struggle in which the lawyer has carefully chosen words to ensure the company always wins.
Conscious Capitalist companies try to hire open-minded employees who are aligned with the company’s vision and values. Often they go to great lengths and have many meetings to select the right person for the job and to build a strong relationship. Once they have decided to hire a person, the company gets their legal department to draw up an employment contract. A contract then has so many big words the employee might not even understand them unless he has enough money to consult his own lawyer! Those contracts make it clear the company has all the power. They tell the employee if he does something the company doesn’t like, they will take him to court to fight! The employee goes into the relationship feeling at a disadvantage, defensive and cautious.
We need to change the way contracts are drafted. We need multi-dimensional lawyers who are not only Fighters but also Designers and Problem Solvers. These lawyers know that they play a vital part in building relationships and restoring harmony and resolving conflict if it does arise. These lawyers also know that conflict is a part of any human relationship! This means they put procedures in place for resolving conflict that don’t involve rushing off to a court room where a judge who has never met any of the people involved gets to make a decision about who is right and who is wrong.
We need lawyers who understand their role is to prevent conflict where possible and restore peace where necessary. We need lawyers who can integrate important information from other disciplines like psychology and economics and organisational development because they are not too busy only being lawyers for 16 hours a day.
These lawyers are called Integrative Lawyers. They are part of the Blue Economy which celebrates collaboration, innovation and the collective strength of organisations to create transformational change. The Blue Economy is about facilitating shifts in the currently accepted paradigm. In law, the currently accepted paradigm is the Fighter mentality.
If you are building a Conscious Capitalist business or simply trying to improve the relationships your business has with its employees, its suppliers and its customers, you need to train your legal department in Integrative Law. Or hire an Integrative Lawyer.
Conscious contracts offer integrative, values-based ways to align your legal documents with your purpose and create strong relationships with stakeholders. This article, originally written for a magazine for entrepreneurs, will help you understand the direction we’re heading.
And Linda Alvarez has a wonderful website at DiscoveringAgreement.com which describes her particular brand of conscious contract services.
A group of us lawyers from around the world have been working on this model and have only recently decided to form an alliance. We’re working on our own conscious contract and will be posting more soon. Until then, we’re collecting resources and sharing them.