A national organization that promotes the idea that business must have a purpose beyond profit hopes to get a stronger foothold in the Tampa-St. Pete area.
“I think there’s a lot of momentum in Florida and in Tampa particularly right now,” Alexander McCobin, CEO of Conscious Capitalism Inc., told St. Pete Catalyst in an exclusive interview at Startup Week Tampa Bay on Wednesday. “That’s one of the reasons the Florida chapter is part of Startup Week — because we want to introduce this to more businesses, both those that are already having an influence and those that are going to have an influence in the future.”
McCobin was accompanied by Jared Meyers, chairman and owner of St. Petersburg-based Salt Palm Development, a real estate firm that has become a certified B Corp. That means the company has been certified by the nonprofit B Lab as voluntarily meeting higher standards of transparency, accountability and performance.
Salt Palm also is a member of the Florida chapter of Conscious Capitalism.
The national organization works with businesses to help them run on four tenets:
Higher purpose. That means more than just maximizing profits and trying to achieve a greater ideal.
Taking care of all stakeholders. “Instead of thinking that if they are going to benefit one group, they need to take away from another – for instance, if they are going to help employees they must be harming customers or shareholders – getting them to a win-win-win mindset where you can benefit customers by benefitting your employees and shareholders and finding those interconnected opportunities,” McCobin said.
Conscious leadership, or leaders who focus on “we” rather than “me” and bring out the best in all around them.
Conscious culture, which involves creating environments where people are able to bring their full selves to work.
National retailers, including Whole Foods Market and The Container Store, are among the partners of Conscious Capitalism. So is Echo Park Automotive, a Dallas-based used car dealership.
“What is incredible about them is this is the used car field, where you typically don’t think about conscious business whatsoever,” McCobin said. “What they did is identified their purpose was to infuse happiness in all of their employees’ lives, and they focused on building out that culture, and in doing so, created a thriving business, growing from $40 million revenue in the mid 2000s to hundreds of millions of revenue in the last couple of years, which led to them merging with a larger company to share this with other used car dealerships around the country.”
A study of 28 public companies identified as the most socially conscious showed that 18 of them outperformed the S&P 500 index by a factor of 10.5 between 1996-2011, according to a 2013 report in the Harvard Business Review.
For Salt Palm — which became a certified B Corp in March 2018 — it’s a little early to measure return on investment, Meyers said. But it’s had a personal impact on him, making him more excited about doing business.
“It’s made us a better community partner and brought more visibility to what we do,” Meyers said.
Salt Palm just completed the first phase of The Sabal, a development at 532 4th Ave. S., with four townhomes. A second phase with four more townhomes is under construction, with two of those already sold.
The company bought carbon offset credits, designed to reduce the environmental impact of the development, from Carbonfund.org for the first phase of the project and plans to do so for the second as well, Meyers said.
Salt Palm also has a standing commitment to put at least 50 percent of its profits back into the community. Last year, the company put 100 percent of its profits back, although Meyers added that doesn’t mean the company will do that every year, and he doesn’t expect other businesses to meet that benchmark.
“When buyers come in to look at our project and they hear our story, it has a feel-good element,” Meyers said. “Buyers know that the profits we generate go back to the community, and we are encouraging other businesses to adopt these business models.”