Niall Dunne

Humanize: conscious capitalism, the social organization and courage

“We are all human beings facing an uncertain economic future, rapidly dwindling natural resources and a growing understanding of the threat posed by society’s imbalances”. Those aren’t my words. They aren’t the words of an activist group either. They were written by Niall Dunne, Chief Sustainability Officer at BT.

You can read them on the ‘forum blog’ of the World Economic Forum. In his post, Niall urged politicians and business leaders to take the talk beyond Davos:  an ongoing conversation between human beings – including ‘leaders’ – in a changing world.

A growing number of ‘cases’  –  discover some in the sources mentioned below  – shows that the debate hasn’t stopped and will not stop. It even occurs in a very public and connected space and business leaders are not the only ones participating.

The moral economy and the social organization

‘How we can ‘ensure that human dignity and common values are at the center of economic pursuits’, as Robert Greenhill, Managing Director and Chief Business Officer of the World Economic Forum wonders? Economic pursuits in which trust, collaboration and ‘people-centricity’ take a central role.

Robert Greenhill sees the concept of a ‘Moral Economy’ rising again, in a climate of change and uncertainty.  The interconnectedness – as we know it in this digital age – is one of the elements to take into consideration for a ‘desired rebalancing of the world economy’, Greenhill states.

It’s easy to be skeptical about the ‘moral potential’ of business and the economy in general. However, the need for change within the ways we do business, taking into account human values and the need for trust through transparency, is not just wishful thinking. Interconnectedness and the human impact of social technologies are strong forces demanding change and a holistic digital business approach.

The evolutions underlying the ‘social business‘ transformations and distributing the decision processes in business across connected stakeholders, can be felt every single day. They even go beyond business in the strict sense. Human values, trust and social responsibility are closely related in the social organization.

In their book ‘Humanize‘ Jamie Notter and Maddie Grant describe four pillars of a more social organization in a very hands-on way. Trustworthiness is one of them, even if we have to be careful with the idea of trust because “as an idea, it has achieved a status dangerously close to notions like motherhood and apple pie”, as Jamie and Maddie write.

A higher calling: a matter of courage?

We live in a climate of change and uncertainty, Niall Dunne and Robert Greenhill both wrote and interconnectedness is one of the core elements. With uncertainty, change – and thus often fear – comes opportunity. The opportunity to transform business as we know it and the identification – and actualization – of a ‘higher calling for business’. Is this what the social organization in the end is all about? The kind of higher calling John Mackey and Raj Sisodia describe in their book Conscious Capitalism?

Jamie Notter and Maddie Grant

Jamie Notter and Maddie Grant

When looking at the four key tenets of the book, as described in this blog post by Henna Inam I see similar key elements as in ‘Humanize‘ coming back: trust, transparency, people, stakeholder integration, etc.

Are they more than words and wishful thinking? If we fully grasp at the impact of the interconnected generations, they aren’t. Change isn’t a question of overcoming fears and opportunities anymore. it’s not even a matter of choice. Business across the world see it every day as the examples in the blog post by Henna Inam show. One of the four tenets of “Conscious Capitalism” is ‘conscious leadership’. Leadership that is motivated by purpose. And this is where one the four principles of the social organization comes back as Jamie and Maddie described them: courage.

The kind of courage it takes for leaders to take the talk beyond Davos and to also walk the walk. What does it take to do so?


The author, J-P De Clerck is a digital marketing and business analyst. He’s active on the crossroads where marketing, business, customer experience, technologies,  IT, media and digital transformation meet. You can connect with him on Twitter and in our Benelux LinkedIn Group.


  1. Perhaps the authors may no know, but the concept of business for social purpose arises from an argument about the ethics of capitalism and human life.

    Hence the blog title – Econonomics for Humanity

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