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Businesses do not operate in a vacuum; a simple cotton t-shirt has a history that may involve dozens of people in different parts of the world, and a future that may involve even more factors. Conscious business refers to a mindset in which a business pays attention to its affect on the world. Using conscious business strategies often involves issues of human rights, labor laws, and the environment.
Traditionally, the world of business is about the bottom line of profit. This is a fairly logical modus operandi, since a business cannot survive if it does not remain profitable. Conscious business does not ignore the priorities of positive cash flow, but suggests an additional list of priorities beyond mere dollars and cents for companies that are financially successfully. By taking social and environmental responsibility, conscious business practices help improve the lot of people and the planet, while trying to ensure the far-off future of the company by undertaking sustainable practices in the present.
Some practices involved in conscious business philosophies involve the treatment of humans throughout the production process. Slave laborers weaving cloth in Sri Lanka, the theory suggests, are to some degree the responsibility of the corporation that sells sweaters made out of the cloth. Some corporations go directly into the communities where growing and manufacturing is done, and build homes, medical clinics, clean wells, or schools for the local people. Others keep careful tabs on their manufacturing plants to ensure that labor standards, such as fair wages and safe conditions, are maintained.
In addition to trying to care for people, conscious business involves caring for the environment. Cutting emissions, using recyclable materials, and reducing paper waste are all ways that a business can engage in sustainable habits. Moreover, buying materials from communities or manufacturers that engage in environmentally safe methods also helps encourage the spread of green business practices by making it more profitable. A coffee company that only purchases from growers that use shade-growing and organic techniques, for instance, can help encourage other nearby farms to adopt these practices.
As of the 21st century, conscious business is far from the norm for most industries. Nevertheless, as consumers grow more educated about deteriorating resources on the planet and the plight of developing nations, a strong specialty market that favors humanitarian and eco-conscious practices has developed. Some economic experts suggest that this type of business philosophy will become more widespread and more important as natural resources dwindle.