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Compassionate Capitalism

How Philanthropy Has Been Mistaken for Compassion

This is the reverse psychology of Capitalism. that the word compassion comes first and gives the word capitalism an edge. Can two opposite things co-exist? Yes, they can, but it would not be a natural co-existence, one of the two have to compromise. When capitalists try to talk about compassion they equate it to their philanthropic giving. That to me is the problem to begin with. Philanthropic giving by cooperation is tied to their tax breaks and PR strategy and not actually as a result of a cause they identify with.

For an organization philanthropic giving to be considered compassionate, it has to come from a place of daring, defying the odds, and trying to do good. That involves understanding the plight of the people you choose to represent and taking steps to become almost of the same level with them, bringing them into the process of your decision making. Compassion is putting yourself in the proverbial shoes of others, the same goes for compassionate capitalism it should involve the people you choose to help. Let us take, for example, Amazon. Amazon, has a refugee program under their philanthropic arm, does that make Amazon a compassionate philanthropic organization? Hell no. Amazon staff, in which the majority of them happen to be refugees, migrants, and minority communities, cannot afford a sustainable standard of living. So, if donating money qualifies you as a compassionate capitalist then only Amazon would get a pass mark.

Compassionate capitalism is what Starbucks does during the COVID 19 pandemic, shutting down its stores all over the United States for almost two months while they continue to pay the staff. When they choose to re-open doing so with caution and putting the staff first before the profit they can make. Compassion is not just establishing a philanthropy culture, it is defining your organization’s mission tied to the plight of people who are suffering. 

Most organizations have a department they title corporate social responsibility and consider this to be doing compassionate work. No that is not how it is done, is not having a sign in your hotel bathroom to conserve water and kind people out of their good heart choose to conserve water and the cooperation pockets the money without paying the cleaners extra but pumping extra to shareholders and stock market. That brings us to the definition of capitalism, which is a private-run business for profit making and no place did it say for the good of the people. Businesses have never cared about the people that make them successful and for some business owners to call their business model compassionate capitalism as daring to do good alone is giving a pass to cooperation that exploits their people. 

So what can an organization do to become a compassionate one.

  1. Listen to your people and understand what they want as well as your vision for the organization. Chobani Yogurt was started by Hamdi Ulukaya buying a yogurt plant in 2005 in a small town in South Edmeston, New York and hired several of the former Kraft employees as well as a “yogurt master” and launched his brand in 2007.

Hamdi spent two years listening to former employees as he prepared to launch the brand, after launching the brand. His personal cell phone number was the 1-800 number for almost two years of the business, listening to the customer and not the investor or what profit he would make. This is compassionate capitalism, his mission involves creating a good food culture in America and his business model is fulfilling that promise.

  1. Interpret your mission statement and make it usable by all executives in your organization. If your mission is tied to being compassionate, you have to make that attainable by members of your organization. Every member of the organization has to make this vision part of their day to day working experience, I like to use Starbucks as an example because of their mission  “To inspire and nurture the human spirit – one person, one cup and one neighborhood at a time.” It is a statement that brings out critical customer-centric elements of the company.

Starbucks barristers follow this principle when they serve each cup of coffee to you. Everyone at Starbucks delivers a promise to you when they give you a cup of coffee. That is why when you think of getting coffee and you can afford it outside the United States, you think of Starbucks even when there is a local coffee shop around you. Starbucks is transparent in where they get their coffee bean from and the process of getting you that cup of coffee. This is compassionate capitalism, we are making profit but we are going to ensure you understand our process in entirety. 

  1. Incorporate a philanthropy arm in your business that does not necessarily involve evading taxes or getting breaks for your business. Eat Offbeat, a food catering company in New York City runs a social enterprise. Eat Offbeat employees 90% of their staff are refugees, kitchen is run by refugees and 10% of their income goes to supporting not for profit organizations especially International Rescue Committee (IRC). 

Manal, the founder of Eating of Beat, embodies this principle of running a business but actually supporting people in need by employing them and supporting the factors that affect refugees such as housing, food, and resettlement organizations. 

This is compassionate capitalism, when helping people come first before making a profit. 

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