The title of the article itself seems like a contradiction. How can a business be anti-capitalist? But it is possible, it is peaceful, and it is powerful.
In a world filled with capitalist structures, it seems almost paradoxical to consider running an anti-capitalist business. But the concept of an anti-capitalist business is not about rejecting entrepreneurship or profits. Instead, it’s about challenging traditional capitalist principles to instead prioritize ethics, sustainability, and social responsibility.
If the goal of your business is to make yourself wealthy (build your own capital), then capitalism is definitely for you and you might not get much out of this article. But if the goal of your business is to help others, bring joy to lives, or simply just do what you love without slaving away 40 hours a week to buy someone else their third car, then keep on reading.
What is capitalism?
When talking in terms of business, capitalism allows anyone to start a business, with the main goal of making profit. Supply and demand set the price of goods and services, and the government doesn’t really get involved in anything, other than taking their taxes.
Now with this definition, capitalism doesn’t sound so bad. But all the side effects of capitalism are where the issues lie. The biggest of these are the wealth gap, social and environmental impact, and ethical concerns. When it comes to capitalism, none of these things take priority. The main goal is profit, and anything else can be compromised to ensure the main goal is met.
In essence, a capitalist business (or just a normal business in this capitalist world we live in) is designed to make profits for just a few people. Capitalism thrives on exploitation, privilege, and fear. And unfortunately, it’s turned many people to greed, deceit and lack of ethics. This has made it really hard to trust these days, especially when it comes to business. But not all hope is lost!
How do I run an anti-capitalist business?
An anti-capitalist business focuses on the well-being of people rather than large profits. It’s hard to make the shift and break the chokehold capitalism has on our society, and it means that you need to challenge the conditioning of growing up in this world and think differently. Adopt alternative business models and focus on creating businesses that address social inequalities, promote environmental justice, and prioritize well-being. Here are some of the key principles and practical steps you can take to run an anti-capitalist business.
1. Purpose and Values
The foundation of an anti-capitalist business starts in defining a clear purpose and core values. Identify the social or environmental problem you aim to address and create a mission statement that reflects your commitment to social justice, equity, and sustainability. Outline your values, such as fair wages, employee empowerment, community engagement, and environmental consciousness. These principles will guide your decision-making process and help you stay true to your anti-capitalist vision. This doesn’t mean that you need to be established as a Not-For-Profit, an anti-capitalist business can still run within capitalist structures.
2. Cooperative Ownership
One of the key pillars of an anti-capitalist business is the adoption of cooperative ownership structures. Rather than a traditional hierarchical model, consider forming a worker cooperative, where employees collectively own and democratically manage the business. This model ensures that workers have a say in decision-making processes and share in the benefits and profits of the business. By empowering your employees, you cultivate a sense of ownership and foster a more equitable workplace.
This can be tricky finding people who want this type of business structure when everyone is so used to traditional business models.
3. Ethical Sourcing
Challenge the exploitative nature of capitalist supply chains by prioritizing ethical sourcing and responsible production practices. Conduct thorough research to ensure that your suppliers adhere to fair labor standards, environmental sustainability, and human rights principles. Consider sourcing locally to support local economies and reduce the carbon footprint associated with transportation. Establish long-term relationships with suppliers who align with your values and work together to continuously improve social and environmental practices.
Look at your waste, use of plastic, and consumption of resources and consider if all of it is really necessary. It’s a good idea to have a regular health check to see if any of the items you regularly source have a more sustainable alternative.
4. Fair Compensation
Combat income inequality by implementing fair compensation structures that prioritize living wages and transparent salary policies. Consider adopting a wage ratio system where the highest-paid employee does not earn significantly more than the lowest-paid worker.
Provide comprehensive benefits such as healthcare coverage, paid time off, parental leave, and retirement plans. By fostering a culture of respect and support for employees, you create an equal workplace.
This one can be particularly hard to work with. It could mean that either your highest-paid worker earns far less with your business than they would elsewhere, or your lowest-paid employee earns far more than they would elsewhere. This creates far more competition in the less skilled roles, and an almost scary absence of interest in critical roles within your business. Making your business mission known will help to attract the right types of people to roles in your business.
One of the most hated parts of capitalism globally is the 40-hour workweek. And on top of that, the expectation there is for you to do more than that to be considered a good worker. In an anti-capitalist business, the focus is on people, which means they should be well looked after. Consider an alternative to hourly salaries, and instead offer more healthy systems such as a salary to complete the job role. Flexible working hours are also a big benefit for employees. It allows them the ability to fit work around their life, the way it should be, instead of their life revolving around work.
6. Ethical Marketing
Challenge the exploitative nature of capitalist marketing by engaging in ethical marketing practices. Avoid manipulative advertising techniques that create artificial needs and instead focus on transparent communication about your products or services.
We see far too many ads targeted to business owners that are designed to make them feel unworthy if they are making less than $xxx per month. The messaging that you are not enough until you ‘earn this much’, ‘do this course’, ‘have this thing’, are inherently unethical and capitalistic.
Instead, educate consumers about the impact of their purchasing decisions, highlighting the benefits of supporting ethical businesses. Emphasize the positive social and environmental aspects of your products and foster a sense of community among your customers.
7. Give Back to the Community
An anti-capitalist business should actively engage with and contribute to the community in which it operates. Invest in local initiatives, charities, or social programs that align with your mission and values. Support organizations working towards social justice, environmental protection, or economic empowerment. Consider offering pro bono services or volunteering as a way to give back and strengthen community ties.
How it works for an Anti-Capitalist Marketing Agency
It might be mindblowing to realise that a marketing agency has written this article. But our agency is one of the few (surely not the only, right?) that was actually founded on anti-capitalist ideals. We saw an article on WebFX saying that the average website costs $12k-$150k and were outraged. I was working as a freelancer at the time and saw the difference between what a client was charged, and what a freelancer earned. It was shocking to learn the company was keeping at least 90% of what they charged, and that infuriated me.
So we started Booming Businesses with an anti-capitalist approach, and to be honest it really struggled. Our prices were so much lower than any other agency, and that scared most people off. We struggled between increasing our prices so that people would want them, or keeping them low because we just wanted a living wage, not huge profits. That’s exactly what we were fighting against!
Now we’ve grown and it took a while, but it’s great to be working doing what we love, knowing that it’s ethical, and supporting other ethical businesses. The knowledge that our agency is leaving a positive impact on the world is worth far more to us than having three cars and vacation houses in different cities.
Running an anti-capitalist business requires a paradigm shift from the traditional profit-oriented mindset to one that prioritizes ethics, sustainability, and social responsibility.
It’s hard to not fall for the capitalist temptation to try to gain large profits upfront, just to escape the position that capitalism has put you into in the first place. That right there is the trap of capitalism. You are exploited as an employee to make someone else wealthy, until you break the chain. You become your own boss, and unconsciously start exploiting others to make yourself the wealthy one.
I’m not going to lie, it is a hard and lonely road trying to run an anti-capitalist business until you find others like you. But by embracing things like ethical sourcing, offering fair compensation, engaging in ethical marketing, and giving back to the community, you can challenge the inherent inequalities and exploitative practices of capitalism. If you want to run an anti-capitalist business, stay strong. You CAN do it, and the world WILL benefit from it.