A couple weeks ago, I went to hear John Mackey, the founder and CEO of Whole Foods, discuss his new book. I’ve followed Mackey’s philosophies for a while now, as I think he’s got the right idea. Here’s a blurb about the book from his blog:

“Free enterprise capitalism has been the most powerful creative system of social cooperation and human progress ever conceived, but its perception and its role in society have been distorted. Now is the time to demonstrate to a skeptical world the truth, goodness and heroism of capitalism rather than perpetuate the false stigmas of selfishness, greed and profit maximization. We must revolutionize capitalism and show that businesses are the greatest value creators of all, with the power to push humanity upward for continuous improvement. Here, John talks about the unique opportunity businesses have to unleash creativity.”

I get saddened at times thinking about the problems that humans have caused for our planet and for future generations of humans. Despite there being great non-profits and other organizations out there doing wonderful things, it sometimes feels like the problems we’re facing are just too big to overcome with those measures.

The one area of hope I see in possibly overcoming some of the issues we’re facing as a species is in what Mackey calls Conscious Capitalism. I’d argue that for-profit businesses have the power to reach and activate more people and spur more effective change than other organizations, including activist groups, non-profits and governments. A big reason behind this is the power of brands. People love their favorite brands – staunchly defending them against naysayers and unsolicitedly promoting them in interesting ways.

Occasionally, I’ll see people with real tattoos (the permanent kind) of a consumer brand. That’s how you know you’ve built a strong brand: someone freely chose to undergo thousands of stabs from a sharp needle to inject some sort of permanent inky substance into the beautiful, living, breathing organ that is his or her epidermis in order to wear your brand with pride. Give yourself a pat on the back, Marketing team. You deserve a bonus.

So I think building a movement that sparks purpose-driven and “conscious” businesses, with strong brands, is the most realistic way of making real, positive change. I’m hoping that the Conscious Capitalism movement gains some steam.