1. Conscious Capitalism
Over my twenty-five years career, I’ve had the honor of working with thousands of entrepreneurs and tens of thousands of small business owners. I firmly believe in the power of small businesses and mission-driven founders to make the world a better place, regardless of tax status. Inspiring leaders who make the world a better place start and run for-profit companies, non-profits, and other forms of organization. Small businesses are the lifeblood of the US economy—according to the Small Business Administration, small businesses account for 67% of U.S. job creation.
Over the past 50 years, a growing movement of small businesses (and even some large corporations) have chosen to identify themselves as proponents of an economic philosophy called “conscious capitalism”. Conscious capitalism believes that business can be about more than just making a profit. It can be about higher purpose, making the world a better place. Double bottom-line.
These are the types of endeavors that have built my career—starting, investing in, and growing companies on a mission to make the world a better place, not just make money. To date, I’m honored to have held leadership and/or board positions in more than 25 corporations and organizations that have grown to more than $1 billion in market value. Double bottom-line companies like these make money while achieving positive social impact in the world.
Reaching beyond the workplace, conscious capitalism describes a socially responsible economic and political philosophy. It demands that businesses operate ethically while they pursue profits and that all organizations operate based on core values as they aspire toward positive impact. Four guiding principles include a higher purpose, stakeholder orientation, mindful leadership, and a conscious culture. This optimizes profit while encouraging the adaptation of broad common interests into the company's business plan, directing the power of capitalism toward good.
In August 2019, the Business Roundtable released a new Statement on the Purpose of a Corporation, which said all its member companies share a fundamental commitment to all their stakeholders, including employees, customers, the community, and the environment. Because of this commitment beyond financial shareholders, we can see conscious capitalism in action. Marc Benioff, CEO of Salesforce and one of the leaders of this movement, expressed it best when he said, “I really strongly believe that capitalism as we know it is dead…that we’re going to see a new kind of capitalism, and that new kind of capitalism that’s going to emerge is not the Milton Friedman capitalism that’s just about making money.”
Here are seven concrete ways I propose we incorporate conscious capitalism principles into federal policy.
Putting The Working Class First
In our pursuit of a fair and prosperous society, it is imperative to prioritize the working class. As a Democrat, I champion policies that uplift hardworking families, ensuring access to quality education, affordable healthcare, and fair wages. By investing in vocational training programs, supporting entrepreneurs, and helping small businesses, we empower workers to thrive in today’s rapidly evolving economy. I advocate for robust workers' rights, including collective bargaining and a living wage, to build a foundation for economic security. Together, we can bridge the wealth gap, fostering an inclusive society where every individual has the opportunity to achieve.
Corporations For Good
In addition to my commitment to workers, I’m firmly committed to my belief that the best companies create good quality jobs. I am currently working to publish a white paper explaining how we can upgrade and optimize our nation’s education-to-employment system to create 75 million quality jobs. In addition, we will raise awareness of B-Corporations. These will be measured on their positive social impact alongside their financial returns in a double-bottom-line assessment. Upon election, we will create more fairness in the tax code by increasing the corporate tax rate to 25% for C-Corporations that generate more than $100 million in profit but keep it at 15% for B-Corporations and small businesses to encourage more companies to be impact-oriented and community-focused. Small businesses that earn less than $1 million per year in profit will enjoy a federal tax rate of 0% because they are the engine of American economic growth and job creation. My administration believes that capitalism is the world’s best economic system, but our laws and systems need to be modernized to embrace conscious capitalism. This will build better businesses for all stakeholders, not just shareholders. Workers, customers, and the community matter just as much as shareholders.
Good Quality Jobs
In driving economic reform, I advocate for a transformative approach centered on upskilling in technology. By investing in comprehensive training programs, we empower individuals to harness the potential of emerging technologies, opening avenues for lucrative careers. This initiative not only addresses the demands of a rapidly evolving job market, but also propels our workforce into high-paying positions, with the potential to earn $50,000 - $200,000 a year without a college degree. Embracing innovation and nurturing a tech-savvy workforce not only secures individual financial success but also positions our nation at the forefront of global competitiveness, ensuring a prosperous future for all.
We know that future growth is already being driven by a new generation of entrepreneurs working to solve the 21st century’s toughest challenges. Entrepreneurial skills should be taught in K-12 schools, supported in postsecondary programs, and powered by a rising generation of investors committed to social impact. We will also implement policies based on the growing Right To Start movement.
I understand service workers. I started my career in food service waiting tables and my first company offered a meal plan for students. I’m fortunate to say I understand the American Dream because I’ve lived it—and I’m fighting for others to have their fair share, too. As a big supporter of unions, with concrete plans to upgrade our union laws, I’ve been tracking the noble efforts of Culinary Union 226. I believe all workers should have good jobs, fair wages, predictable schedules, better job security, safer working conditions, and health benefits. 2023 presented a watershed year for workers. Our administration wants this movement to grow in a people-first agenda. Despite a historically supportive National Labor Relations Board and relatively high union favorability, more than 90% of Americans are not in unions. American labor law has not been meaningfully updated since the 1950s. We need to update employment and union laws so that an upgraded version of unions can fulfill its core purposes: to protect workers from unsafe and unfair practices, to empower them to collectively bargain, to ensure evaluations more on talent than seniority, and to offer stronger pathways to apprenticeship and upskilling. We have to protect the best employees as they move up the ladder, not protect bad apples. I support the right of individuals and companies to bargain over wages, benefits, and working conditions. I also recognize the need to innovate in an economy with today’s ever-changing employment landscape. We need to reconceptualize what a union is so that it can be portable between industries and firms, in the same way previous administrations have crafted portability in retirement (through 401Ks) and healthcare (through the healthcare marketplace). We should encourage changes to labor law that promote experimentation at the state and local levels, allowing companies, unions, and governments to apply for waivers that encourage new union models specifically designed for the 21st century. Together we can create a labor system that ensures workers are safe and well-compensated. When talent is rewarded and upskilling or reskilling are the norm, and companies can become even more profitable.
Gun ownership is both a fact of American life and a protected right under the Constitution, but the United States has a very real gun problem. Too many guns are in the hands of too many people who should not possess them, too many gun owners practice irresponsible storage practices, and too many regulations exist to protect gun dealers and the gun industry instead of innocent people. Our schools, churches, and Main Streets are no longer places where Americans can feel sure in their safety. These problems hinder efforts to bring renewed economic vitality to American communities. Common sense solutions to these problems can strike a balance between preserving individual rights, individual safety, and community prosperity. I support a national background check system for all gun purchases. I support red flag laws to empower family members and law enforcement to prevent gun violence and gun-related suicides by petitioning a court to temporarily separate someone who may be in crisis from their firearms. I also support implementing a massive buyback program for assault rifles. We must keep guns out of the hands of mentally ill individuals and people convicted of domestic violence. Encouraging industry to be part of the solution makes perfect sense. Through adopting common sense practices and improvements—the adoption of smart gun features, gun safety expansion, stopping the spread of downloadable 3-D printed guns—we can create a safer tomorrow.
Climate change presents the greatest existential threat our planet has ever known. Its most serious impacts are already being inequitably felt: the most marginalized and least equipped to manage the economic, health, and other disasters attendant with climate change are bearing the brunt. Some activists want to completely abandon conventional sources of energy production, concerned about time horizons for change, but I see an alternative. We need to embrace a “people-first, jobs-focused, all of the above” approach to addressing climate change. First, we decrease our reliance on finite fossil fuels over appropriate timelines as we continue to build the clean energy grid of tomorrow. Second, we need aggressive investment in a new energy workforce, helping those in fossil fuel production bridge to the high-paying jobs of the green energy sector as those industries become more profitable and sustainable. Third, we need to further explore nuclear power, compressed natural gas, hydrogen, and other existing or soon-to-be-deployed technologies to power our communities. Imagine a legion of entrepreneurs building and deploying solar energy, wind energy, fusion energy, new battery technology, and other solutions. With sustained, positive economic effort that embraces new technologies and prepares people and infrastructure for the future, we can power our nation in economically responsible and ethical ways.
Embracing conscious capitalism means acknowledging the historical processes that have left Americans, and particularly people of color, in the US without equal levels of wealth, education, or opportunity. If we want to build a bright future we must acknowledge the darkness in our past, and that begins by offering reparations to those who have suffered, either directly or through a parent or ancestor, at the hands of systemic oppression. Through a combination of financial restitution and political empowerment we can extend the promise of the American Dream to millions of people for whom it has remained out of reach. A comprehensive reparations program would create a new wave of entrepreneurs, impact investors, and workers to bolster the economy while making our country safer, kinder, and more educated for everyone. It would demonstrate to the global community our commitment to justice and equality, and it would place the United States at the international forefront in ethically responsible spending.
I am committed to addressing the critical issue of housing affordability. Housing is a fundamental necessity that should be accessible and affordable for all. Americans with good jobs should be able to afford rent, but millions are working multiple jobs while having to allocate the majority of their earnings to housing. Even worse, more than 500,000 Americans find themselves either sleeping on the streets or seeking refuge in homeless shelters today due to the inability to finance a place to live.
We have a housing problem in America because zoning and tax policies have made it too difficult to fund and construct affordable and working-class housing. I support strong Federal policies that make it easier to fund, construct, and upgrade urban housing, including expansion and modernization of the National Housing Trust Fund.
I’m also proposing that States create a Rent Deposit Fund for low-income families to pay 10% into a Fund in lieu of a deposit to make housing and moving more affordable. I’m also in favor of temporary rent control measures where appropriate, during inflationary periods.
Education is another key aspect of my approach. I believe in empowering individuals with the knowledge and resources to make informed decisions about homeownership and rental agreements. Financial literacy programs and homeownership assistance can pave the way for more families to achieve the dream of stable and affordable housing. By fostering thoughtful policies, collaborative efforts, and education, we can work towards ensuring that every individual and family has the opportunity to access safe, affordable, and dignified housing. I believe in a future where housing is a source of security and comfort for all.