Top 5 Reasons to be a Conscious Company

By Amanda Karst and Charlie Kerr

For DC restaurateur Dan Simons, the co-owner of Farmers Restaurant Group, there was a last straw. It happened for him one day when he learned that the non-plastic straw, he used in restaurants wasn’t really doing the planet the favor he thought it was. He was looking at all the allegedly enviro-friendly “PLA” straws in one of his Founding Farmers restaurants and realizing – there are so many straws here, in this one location, imagine how many there are in all DC restaurants – how bad straws are for the environment regardless of traditional plastic or PLA. He also realized in that moment – it didn’t have to be that way.

Shortly after that he launched a sustainability project – Our Last Straw – that works to eliminate one of the top 10 contributors to marine debris pollution. The project didn’t necessarily benefit his bottom line, but Simons says he felt it was an important way to reduce plastic pollution in his own city. It turns out others shared his environmental concerns and today Our Last Straw is a coalition of restaurants, bars, cafes, hotels, and event venues all committed to eliminating single-use plastic straws in their own establishments.

That is Conscious Capitalism at work. It’s about tapping into the potential for business to make a positive impact in the world. Conscious companies are looking to elevate humanity through business so their people will flourish, and lead lives infused with passion and purpose and love. This way of thinking about capitalism allows us to address the many complex issues affecting our country and our city—the power, political and policy center of the U.S. So it’s not surprising that Conscious Capitalism DC (CCDC), the local chapter of this global movement looking to create change in business culture – is growing at a brisk pace – even during the pandemic and amid social unrest, economic challenges, systemic racism, climate challenges and more.

As the Executive Director and Chapter Coordinator of CCDC, we can tell you that those of us who are part of this movement are working to create a thriving, sustainable community of individuals and organizations committed to driving businesses as a great force for good—and more organizations than ever want to be a part of it. Our mission is bold. We seek to connect those who practice the philosophy of conscious capitalism. We want to educate, to broaden and deepen understanding of the conscious capitalism principles. And, we want to inspire the greater Washington, D.C. community to change not only their perception of business through understanding the impact of conscious capitalism, but also to take action to practice the tenets.

Joe Punaro is part of the movement. He says he’s long been driven by a higher purpose. It’s what inspired him to join the Marine Corps years ago and now, as CEO of IronArch Technology, a Department of Veterans Affairs certified Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned Small Business, it’s what drives him to lead his company with the benefits of Conscious Capitalism. “Our business is laser focused on making a difference for our country, for our national security, for our veterans and our war fighters,” Punaro explains. “We believe in lifting up the communities where we work and live, doing the right things for our colleagues, and employing a people first attitude in practicing servant leadership.”

“All conscious capitalist companies start with some higher purpose other than shareholder value and profit,” explains CCDC co-founder Ed Offterdinger, who is also a former CEO and the co-founder of AO People Partners, a leadership and people development company. “But ironically, data shows when you practice this principle, you actually are likely to make more money than your competition.”

What else happens when you embrace Conscious Capitalism? Here are 5 benefits conscious companies see.

1. Improved Brand Loyalty (Sales Growth)

Price is not the primary factor it once was when making purchase decisions. We are living in the era of the conscious consumer. Over half of consumers make purchases from companies that reflect their values, and customers who share a company’s values are 2 ½ times more loyal than a regular customer. Think of a company like Ben and Jerry’s, which is transparent about its values and has built a large and loyal following through the years—they sell more ice cream to Walmart than any other retailer.

2. Increased Employee Motivation and Retention

Paychecks alone don’t motivate employees. People want jobs that give a sense of purpose and belonging. Feeling positive about an organization’s impact also increases employee commitment to the organization—meaning less turnover. Employees also perform better when they feel good about the work their company is doing.

3. More Attraction from Investors

If you think investing in conscious companies means sacrificing returns, you could not be more mistaken. ESG investing grew to 30 trillion in 2018 and is expected to grow more over time. Investing in conscious companies actually reduces risk too because it combats a negative cycle that can occur when policies harbor discontent in employees leading to higher turnover that negatively impacts brand image and stock performance. Conscious leadership turns that cycle around.

4. Surges Ahead of the Competition

Consumers are making it clear that they are being conscious with their purchasing power and they’re looking for companies that share that passion. In a 2018 Survey: 76% of consumers said they will not purchase from companies they identify as NOT socially responsible. If you are not a conscious business in your industry and others are, then you are already behind because so many others are doing it.

5. The Growth of Partnerships

Conscious Capitalism provides opportunities for cross sector partnerships. This gives organizations wider market access to consumers who are making purchase decisions based on their values. It also presents opportunities for more brand recognition and can lead to brand loyalty.

 Over and over again, as leaders find their way to Conscious Capitalism DC they say – I’ve long believed these ideas, but I didn’t know there was a movement of others who did too. When they come together and find ways to partner around these principles, there is joy, excitement, and great business value in learning about each other’s companies, discovering shared philosophies, and realizing how much good can come out of teaming up to advance these ideas.

Amanda Karst is the Director of Business Operations and a Leadership Coach at Allen Offterdinger Group, a leadership development and people strategy firm based in Washington, D.C., as well as the Executive Director of Conscious Capitalism Washington, D.C., a global community of business leaders dedicated to elevating humanity through business. Connect with her on LinkedIn.

Charlie Kerr is the Chapter Coordinator of Conscious Capitalism Washington, D.C., a global community of business leaders dedicated to elevating humanity through business. Connect with her on LinkedIn.


Embrace the opportunity to grow your brand and reputation as a company that truly invests in helping employees grow their capabilities – even and especially during an employee off boarding experience. When viewed through the development lens, this is a valuable opportunity for employers to learn and improve organizational and people development practices, build brand ambassadors, and enable departing employees to reflect on gains in skills and capabilities.


Facilitate strategic conversations with senior leaders to explore and define ways conscious people development can be integrated into the culture and daily workflow to power your business, your people, and your employer brand. 


Incorporate learning and development objectives into retention activities to prepare employees for new roles and opportunities. This can be done through engagement and feedback surveys, recognition and rewards programs, promotion, succession planning, and more.

Social Contribution

“Build it so they will want to come, flourish, and stay, knowing that someday they may leave.

Thus, it is imperative to define what you want them to say about their growth experience with your organization and what you want the outside world to say about how you invest in and contribute capable people to society.”

-Ed Offterdinger & Catherine Allen
Conscious, Capable, and Ready to Contribute. (p. 173)

Integrated Capability Development and Performance Management

Integrate learning, growth, and capability development goals and activities into your performance management rather than relying on day-to-day responsibilities alone to create a more engaging, productive, and helpful process.


Adapt onboarding to set new hires up for success in a continuous learning environment through orientation activities that introduce the principles and practices that support everyday learning and development for each employee.


Integrate practices, principles, and tools to better evaluate a candidate’s orientation to continuous learning and development as a factor in their overall fit for a position. This provides:

  • Improved candidate interviewing, assessment and selection practices
  • Better candidate selections with learning and growth mindset
  • An early introduction to your company’s development culture focus


Embed messages about commitment to people development to attract your ideal candidates.