Business Strategy John Lewis

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Business Strategy and Sustainable Development – John Lewis Partnership

John Lewis Partnership is considered one of UK’s major retail businesses that have over twenty seven departmental stores and a hundred and six Waitrose stores. The enterprise is owned and operated as a partnership entity and the first store was set up in 1864 with Waitrose chains coming up in 1904. The first trust settlement was established in 1929 when the business gained a legal entity and profits became available for distribution to all partners; employees. The owner, Spedan Lewis sacrificed his personal business to fulfill his vision of establishing a business owned and run by employees as part of promoting ‘industrial democracy’ in the business.

In 1950, the partnership trust was transferred from a settlement trust to a legal Trust company under the name; John Lewis Partnership Trust Limited. In this arrangement, the Trust company would be under the Trust Chairmanship and his deputy elected by the three governing councils. John Lewis partnership is also regarded as Britain largest worker co-ownership business with more than 63, 000 permanent staffs as partners in the business. In this arrangement, the staffs share business profits and participate in important decisions for the enterprise development. The staffs’ commitment has seen the retail giant garner a unique competitive edge for over seventy five years with unparalleled growth.

One of the major aspects that have propelled the business to greater heights is due to a partnership approach based on understanding that profit is the main aim of business. Another important aspect that has propped the enterprise to its position is a business partnership model anchored on the principle of social economy and the integration of workers as company partners. All these have shaped the structure and principle of the company into a cooperative ownership that shapes the company policy and development.

John Lewis partnership has a legal form based on governing partnership and at no time are business operations directed by shareholders quest for profits but principles of the members’ happiness as enshrined in the partnership constitution. In particular, workers happiness comes from good job performance in enhancing successful business. The partnership constitution has ‘responsibilities and rights’ which enjoins the workers obligation of good job performance with overall betterment of the business for their benefits.

Evaluating John Lewis Partnership principles of conscious capitalism

John Lewis partnership is governed through principles of power, purpose, members read and profits. The principle of  purpose dictate that the aim of the partnership is to promote, enhance and facilitate the happiness of its members through their work as employees in the business and as managing members of the business success. The partnership is based on trust and each member shares genuine responsibility of ownership and rewards that are accrued from the business entity such as knowledge, power and profits.

Conscious Leadership

At John Lewis, all employees are co-owners in the business a democratic management structure run the business. Power is held in esteem by John Lewis partnership and there are three governing authorities that share power; the partnership Board, the Partnership Council and the partnership council. The principle of profits in the partnership dictates that, the enterprise make more profits through its trading operations in order to sustain its commercial prominence, finance development activities and distribute part of the profits to members. Furthermore, the principle of profits making aims to enlarge the enterprise returns that enables the business engage in other activities in accordance to its goals.

Under the principle of members, the partnership constitution is to increase more employees who are competent and committed to working and supporting the enterpri9se principles. In the principle of membership, courtesy, mutual respect and equality among the different members is highly encouraged. The aim is to enhance and encourage individual contributions fairly and reward each accordingly.

Evaluate the principles of conscious capitalism

The concept of conscious capitalism refers to establishing enterprises that implement practices which benefit people and the environment (Mackey, 2013:123). The concept of conscious capitalism is tied to conscious business that is gaining popularity in the modern age especially with regard to increased demand for corporate social responsibility by many business enterprises. Conscious capitalism is ‘values-based’ economic values that push for social and environmental concerns for business as they pursue their economic interests (Baron and Cayer, 2011: 344). The principle of conscious business is driven by the belief that when conducting business, it is not just for profit but facilitating social environmental responsibility for the general good.

Principle of Conscious Culture

Besides a democratic management structure, John Lewis has upholds the principle of radical transparency when conducting all business operations. All employees (co-owners) share, inquire, criticize and tell the management all that is important (Laszlo and Zhexembayeva, 2011:156). Each partner has a priority to voice any aspect deemed necessary regardless of age, education or experience.

Another aspect of conscious culture at John Lewis is its conscious consumerism through socially responsible investments (Zender, 2015). Ideally, the principles of conscious capitalism are based on certain criteria that demand businesses do no harm while undertaking their enterprise operations. One principle of conscious capitalism is that the products and services of business enterprises should never be harmful to the environment or people. This requires business to have mechanisms that forestall social and environmental effects while doing business as well as adopting beneficial social and environmental practices (Korschun, Bhattacharya and Swain, 2014).

Another principle of conscious capitalism is the triple down line model of doing business. Under the triple down model of doing business, the aim is to promote positive value in domains such as the planet, profits and people (Mackey, 2013:123). Profits are what distinguish an entity as a business and not social enterprises. As such, the degree to which an organization has adopted ‘conscious capitalism’ may be reflected in how it utilizes part of the profits for social and environmental welfare. In modern firms, there is a tendency to utilize part of the profits accrued in business for social welfare through donations or establishing an organization foundation whose purpose is social welfare; a good example is the Aga-khan Foundation, Bill Gates Foundation among others.

In line with the principles of  ‘conscious business’ firms that have an understanding of conscious capitalism should desist from accumulating profits through illegal means or deceitful operation practices such as failing to pay employees, poor working conditions or supporting harmful causes. For instance, the recent revelation that HSBC Swiss Bank has been evading tax cuts is an example of a business operating without conscious culture principles. The bank is alleged to have allowed bank transactions involving stolen oversees funds and this disqualifies the bank as being a ‘conscious business.’

A conscious business seeks to enhance the external and internal lives of its stakeholders (shareholders, clients, neighboring community and importantly its employees). In addition, a conscious business should benefit its other stakeholders such as the suppliers, creditors and humanity at large globally. Business enterprises embrace consciousness by forming welfare workplace programs, fair trade in manufacturing and assisting the general community with outreach programs. A business that is conscious aims to reduce the effects of its business operations on the environment in various ways such as engaging in recycling, using renewable energy and working with environmentally conscious partners.

Furthermore, businesses that are conscious use their resources in benefiting the environment and the society through direct or indirect programs related to the distribution of services and products. It has become increasingly important for businesses to reflect their ‘conscious capitalism’ spirit in the way they treat their employees and other stakeholders. Businesses are increasingly reflecting their consciousness through their company missions and values. In particular, paying employees well, donating services and products to non-profit organization is considered a good conscious business spirit. Operating under the spirit of conscious capitalism model pushes the fortunes of a business up by projecting a positive role of improving humanity in the society.

Conscious capitalism helps business to create value and ethics of economic exchanges, elevate humanity existence and creates prosperity by lifting people from poverty. In addition, when business operates on higher purposes other than the pursuit of profits, businesses creates value for all stakeholders, eliminate tradeoffs and elevate performance. The key pillars to conscious capitalism is having; higher purpose, stakeholder integration in the business, conscious leadership, management and culture (Rooke and Torbert, 1998). Neglecting one pillar would lead to jeopardized principle of conscious business. Examples of companies that have successfully embraced conscious capitalism are Google, POSCO in South Korea, Patagonia among others. These companies have created win-win situations for their customers, suppliers, employees, the general community and the environment.

Although conscious capitalism is related to corporate social responsibility, the two are different, Conscious capitalism purposes on creating value for the community stakeholders through actively engagement in business decisions as opposed to engaging them in periphery business programs (Fialka, 2006: 4).

The principle of conscious stakeholder integration

John Lewis Partnership is an example of conscious capitalism on many fronts. First, the partnership is based on conscious purposeful principles whose objective is promoting social economy (Mackey, 2015:1). By developing a co-ownership with workers is one important tenets of conscious capitalism employed by the partnership. Employees are important stakeholders in any organization and play critical roles in the success of an entity (Burden and Warwick, 2013: 3). It is common knowledge even among the company shareholders that employees are the cogs that support the organization in achieving its objectives and goals.

John Lewis Partnership is keen in building transformative relationships and co-develops solutions with all key stakeholders. John Lewis progressively builds transformative relationships with clients, employees, the local authority and charity organizations in its pursuit of sustainable business. In this way, by integrating the interests of all its stakeholders in the core of business activities, John Lewis is an example of a conscious capitalism.

Although organizations may boast of effective leadership, without competent and committed employees becomes an exercise in futile for mangers. Employees’ posses’ important skills and experience on areas that need improvement in the firm based on their day to day interaction with the various aspects of an organization. As such, having competent, committed and selfless employees is not easy and many modern firms are spending heavily in incentives and welfare programs meant to boost employees’ morale for performance (Mackey, 2015:1). Although these employee betterment programs are related to the principle of conscious capitalism, they are less effective in taping employees’ contribution to the firm. John Lewis might have done a critical assessment on these issues prior the development of a co-ownership with thousands of staffs at the retail enterprise. Enjoining employees in business ownerships serves many advantages. One is that employees contribute selflessly and actively in shaping the firms development policy based on their day to day work. Employees are not only motivated to work hard for the business but consistently strive to innovative new ideas that will benefit ‘their’ business.

In addition, the aspect of ‘owning’ the business and being part of decision making helps to improve employees motivation, cooperativeness and overall a corporate culture of harmony (Hind, Wilson and Lenssen, 2009: 23). John Lewis notes that, by enjoining thousands of his staffs in the business, he promoted ‘industrial democracy in which each employee has a fair equal responsibilities and rights in the affairs of the organization. The key pillar in John Lewis Partnership is promoting the happiness of its members who are employees. Human resources studies have found that, motivated and happy employees means happy customers and subsequently increase in sales returns (Somerville, 2013: 2). As such, by promoting the a conscious capitalism approach that focuses on improving employees happiness, the Partnership is a win-win model; employees will strive to make clients happy in return for good business to their partnership business (Abergene, 2005: 23).

Furthermore, by enjoining the employees in the business, this helped improve their welfare by raising their income thereby improving their social economy. In this way, by focusing on the general welfare of employees, John Lewis serves as an example of working ‘conscious capitalism’ enterprise. John Lewis is a good example of a ‘conscious business’ through its conscious management and leadership (Hind, Wilson and Lenssen, 2009: 23).

The Partnership enterprise is government by a well-structured constitution that establishes three centers of authority. These centers of authority promote democracy in the management and running affairs of the business especially in decision making; all employees are members while assessing the business problems. In this way, John Lewis partnership serves as an example to other businesses on what true conscious capitalism means.

Although modern firms allege to have conscious business, employees do not take part in decisions making and are often used as tools to achieve end goals. An example in case is Barclays bank that boast of a ‘conscious business’ but has been implicated with cases of employees mistreatment, underpay and contributing resources to programs that have hazardous effects on the welfare of humanity at large (Smith, 2013: 2). At John Lewis Partnership, employees have absolute freedom of openness in the management of the business; employees can inquire report and raise criticism based on actions deemed unsuitable for the business (Brown, 2012: 73).

Employees’ share business rewards, power and knowledge at the partnership and this has enhanced the firm have a competitive edge against conventional business those that treat employees as mere operational cogs in a business. All employees have equal opportunity to promote their potential and hold principle management positions in the Partnership Council. The management structure and organizational culture allows for two ways decentralized communications among the members. In this way, no individual feel neglected or out of the management structure (Lin, Hu S-y and Chen M-s, 2005: 534).

Another aspect of ‘conscious capitalism’ exhibited by the partnership is that, it does not condone or take part in social positions, sex, gender and political favoritism.’ This is a rare feat of ‘conscious capitalism’ especially in the modern world where most businesses take positions in social, political and religious matters (Burden and Warwick, 2013:2). According to Mackey (2013: 123), business enterprises project conscious business by contributing to the larger community in which they operate. At John Lewis Partnership the entity contributes to the general community in distinct ways. In particular, the enterprise has established links with Schools, local authorities, charitable institutions and other stakeholders in the community as part of giving back to the community (Shumate and O’Conner, 2010: 580).

John Lewis Business Strategy
John Lewis Business Strategy

John Lewis Partnership has important community outreach activities include the Partner volunteer work, charitable giving and development, customer panels and others. The principles established by John Lewis are strong indictors of a business operating under the principles of conscious capitalism. In particular, the entity main objective is to make more profits not for the purpose of enriching private shareholders but for the general good of partner members and the society at large (Korschun, Bhattacharya and Swain, 2014).

In summary, it is evident that the John Lewis entity was not formed with the sole aim of profit making but to facilitate social economy for members and the society at large. John Lewis Partnership serves as a good example of a conscious capitalism through its interest in the welfare of its employees and other stakeholders such as suppliers, having a conscious management structure, leadership, and democratic work culture and spreading the fortunes of the business to surrounding communities.

Conclusion

Conscious capitalism is an important aspect for modern business. The principle of conscious capitalism enables business organizations to surmount myriads of problems associated with employee management, stakeholders’ relation and projects a good role model in the society. Conscious capitalism facilitates free enterprise capitalisms that uphold social and environmental interests beyond economic interests. Conscious capitalisms is inspired by the need to improve humanity welfare, create business value to all stakeholders and improve organization performance competitiveness against conventional enterprises. Conscious capitalism is pillared by stakeholder integration, having conscious leadership in organizations, conscious management, conscious working cultures and creating value for the general community at large.

John Lewis Partnership is a good example of a successful ‘conscious capitalism’ that enjoined its employees as co-owners. The principles adopted by John Lewis have enhanced the firm uplift the welfare of its employees, suppliers, shareholders and the general community at large. Conscious capitalism is inspired by the need to improve social and environment needs in line with achieving economic gains. In short, conscious capitalism is means through which the ends goals of company profits are increased due to improved social reputation. John Lewis Partnership is a creation of conscious capitalism and this has enhanced the enterprise to remain competitively profitable as the largest retail store in UK.

References

Baron, C. M., & Cayer, M. (2011). “Fostering post-conventional consciousness in leaders: Why and how?” The Journal of Management Development, 30(4), 344.

Brown, B. C. (2012). “Conscious leadership for sustainability: How leaders with late-stage action logics design and engage in sustainability initiatives.” Dissertation Abstracts International, 73(07A), UMI No. 3498378.

Fialka, J. (2006).  “Some Companies Move From Opposition to Offering Proposals on Limiting Emissions. “Politics & Economics: Big Businesses Have New Take on Warming”. Wall Street Journal. p. 4.

Hind, P., Wilson, A., & Lenssen, G. (2009). “Developing leaders for sustainable business.” Corporate Governance, 9(1), 7.

John Mackey (2015): “Why Companies Should Embrace Conscious Capitalism” Forbes.

Pete Burden and Rob Warwick (2013). “Exploring Conscious Business Practice: Sensing as we act reacting to what we sense” AMED.

Korschun, D.; Bhattacharya C. B.; Swain, S. D. (2014). “Corporate Social Responsibility, Customer Orientation and the Job Performance of Frontline Employees.” Journal of Marketing 78 (3): 20

Rooke, D. & Torbert, W. R. (1998). “Organizational transformation as a function of CEO’s developmental stage.” Organization Development Journal, 16(1), 11-28.

Smith, Nicola (2013). “Corporate social responsibility: Power to the people”.

Shumate, M; O’Conner, A. (2010). “The symbiotic sustainability model: Conceptualizing NGO-corporate alliance communication”. Journal of Communication 60 (3): 577–609.

Somerville, Michael (September 13, 2013). “Nearly half of Britons would buy more from a store that supports charity”

Zender Tom. (2015). “Discover the power of consciousness in your business.” Phoenix Business Blog.

Abergene, Patricia (September 2005). Mega Trends 2010: The Rise of Conscious Capitalism. Hampton Roads Publishing Company.

Mackey, J. (2013). Conscious capitalism : liberating the heroic spirit of business. Boston Mass.: Harvard Business Review Press.

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Steve Jones

My name is Steve Jones and I’m the creator and administrator of the dissertation topics blog. I’m a senior writer at study-aids.co.uk and hold a BA (hons) Business degree and MBA, I live in Birmingham (just moved here from London), I’m a keen writer, always glued to a book and have an interest in economics theory.

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