The Intersection Between Conscious Business Practices and Decolonization

Here at The 5D Business Collective, we talk a lot about "conscious business".

While there's no standard definition for "conscious business", what I'm referring to is:

  • ethical sales and marketing practices
  • sustainable methods of business growth
  • and a sense of awareness that expands beyond the individual running the business.

Rather than always taking the "what's best for me and my company's bottom line?" route, a conscious approach to business and entrepreneurship is also mindful of the community and the planet.

In a lot of the circles I run in where conscious business is touted as "the way", I also often hear things like "fuck capitalism!" and "smash the patriarchy!".

There are movements against hustle culture. Advocacy for regenerative business practices that honour our cyclical nature. A shift away from exploitative practices and over-extending oneself in the name of being of service. 

And what a lot of folks who advocate for doing business in a gentler way don't realize is the colonial ties to many of the things they speak out against.

Colonialism is the systems, beliefs, and ideologies that come about as a result of colonization. There are very few places on our planet that haven't been touched by what Edgar Villanueva refers to as "the colonizer virus", so it's important to note that colonialism may show up differently in different parts of the world. I write and speak as a woman of mixed First Nations and Greek ancestry who resides on Turtle Island in so-called Canada, and this experience influences the lens through which I view colonialism. 

Elaine Alec, an amazing facilitator and creator of the Cultivating Safe Spaces training, narrows colonialism down to fear, power, and control. I would also add division to the mix. 

Decolonization, in essence, is the dismantling of colonial systems, beliefs, and ideologies. While decolonization has become a catchy buzz word, it's much easier said than done given the fact that our Western world (and beyond) is built on colonial ideologies. 

When we simplify colonialism into fear, power, control, and division, we can find a simpler antidote: love, collaboration, trust, and connection. 

Love for ourselves, our communities, the people we want to serve, our planet. Perhaps even love for the people we disagree with.

Collaboration over competition. Collaboration with similar-hearted folks. Collaboration with Spirit, Creator, Source, God...whatever descriptor resonates with you.

Trust that we do not need to extract from ourselves or our planet in order to "succeed". Trust that we don't need to use pushy, sneaky sales and marketing tactics to coerce others into working with us.

And connection. A deep connection to who we are, where we come from, and what we came here for. A deep connection to our people. A deep connection to the Land. A movement away from individualism and back into community rooted in connection.

Sounds like a lot of what we'd hear in a conversation about conscious business, no?

So often we hear about decolonization as a thing that will restore justice for Indigenous, black, and brown folks. Which is true, and the reality is that colonial ideologies hurt all of us, including our dear Mama Earth. 

Believing you need to work yourself to the bone to make more and more money so you can reach some arbitrary level of financial success? That's colonialism.

Believing you can't share thoughts and ideas with others for fear they'll steal your idea and take away your spot? That's colonialism. 

Believing you are not worthy of reaching out to your community for support and that you need to do it all on your own? That's colonialism. 

Cringing at companies who use exploitative practices to keep costs as low as possible and profits as high as possible? That's colonialism.

Different circles will refer to the decolonial journey in different ways. If there are ways that don't resonate with you, perhaps explore why. There may be medicine in there for you.

But at the very least, remain open. Don't close yourself off to the idea of decolonization. 

Remember that at its core, decolonization is simply about replacing fear, power, control, and division with love, collaboration, trust, and connection.

If you want to explore a decolonial approach to business and entrepreneurship in greater depth, check out this free Decolonizing Business Starter Guide I co-created with a group of Indigenous women entrepreneurs across Turtle Island. We are working with the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology to turn this into a public course, so I'll update the link here when it's live.