Why I’m dedicated to practicing humane business.

Andrew Murray Dunn
9 min readMay 1, 2018

It’s an interesting time to build a tech company. I’m ecstatic about the abundant opportunities we have to repair the world in more humane ways. Here’s the “why” and glimpses of the “how.”

“Humane Business” definition:
(mash up of Zebras Unite x The Center for Humane Technology x Buddhism)

An ethical and inclusive approach to creating economic, social, environmental and spiritual value that aligns with the best interests of all beings everywhere.

synonym: “conscious business”

From where I stand today,

I am aware of endless points of leverage to improve society through business.

I see a growing number of bold individuals thinking differently and marshaling the resources to support such initiatives.

I sense a collective consciousness emerging that is committed to creating a more beautiful world for all.

I am hopeful that the shift I’m experiencing will ignite a universal effort to get team humanity and planet Earth on a more sustainable and even regenerative track.

“I did then what I knew how to do. Now that I know better, I do better.”

— Maya Angelou

[insert tech/business/politics drama du jour]

The sky isn’t falling. But we’re at a critical juncture. Humanity and our planet desperately need tech and business that’s on our side.

As the pain grows, incentives are beginning to change, with a growing chorus of calls to shift our collective mindset from being obsessed with the hacker entrepreneur archetype to one of an empathetic entrepreneur. From blind pursuit of growth to consideration of the long term consequences of technological innovations.

Things are happening.

As we arrive at this watershed moment, naturally we are seeing the emergence of progressive ideas, leaders and business models to be the change we wish to see in the world.

Some exciting signals that have surfaced in just the last few months include:

  • The Blackrock Letter — insisting that the world’s largest companies get real about serving a social purpose.
  • Evolve Foundation — $100M to support organizations committed to reducing human suffering and expanding consciousness.
  • The Center for Humane Technology — dedicated to reversing the digital attention crisis and realigning technology with humanity’s best interests.
  • Zebras Unite — promoting a more ethical and inclusive approach to startup creation. They believe creating an alternative to this status quo is a moral imperative.
  • The CAMH Donation — anonymous $100M to Toronto’s Center for Addiction and Mental Health to support research into mental illnesses.
  • The Pineapple Fund — a cryptocurrency philanthropy fund donating $86 million of bitcoins to charity, from clinical trials of psychedelics for PTSD to teaching kids to read & write.

These beacons of progress come as no surprise to many who have been planting the seeds of change and cultivating mission-driven communities for years.

Established leaders in this humane business ecosystem include:

  • Wisdom 2.0 — asking how we can draw inspiration from ancient wisdom traditions to live with greater presence, purpose, and wisdom in the digital age.
  • Conscious Capitalism — helping companies become more conscious with transformational experiences that inspire, educate and empower them to elevate humanity through business.
  • TransTech — focused on tech for mental and emotional wellbeing, from a belief that there is no more nobler use of tech than to bring peace to the minds of mankind.
  • Social Capital Markets — dedicated to accelerating a new global market at the intersection of money + meaning.
  • B Corporation — B Corps are for-profit companies certified by the nonprofit B Lab to meet rigorous standards of social and environmental performance, accountability, and transparency.

Things are in motion, but we’re not going to flourish without radical innovation across the board.

“No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it.”

— Albert Einstein

A new generation of leaders is coming online. They have inherited broken and inhumane systems. And they’re calling “bullshit.”

The digital revolution is democratizing awareness, action & activism.

Through smartphones and social media, these change agents have unprecedented access to information, tools to self-educate and organize, and skills to leverage tech to manifest their visions. They’re approaching things differently and have a shared understanding and vocabulary for discussing everything from social justice to gender identity to mental health. Their life is their message and they are practicing what they preach, constantly evaluating if their life energy is being used in a way that is aligned with their own values.

It’s perfect timing. Daniel Pinchbeck in How Soon Is Now? argues that we’re at a crisis point and need to be willing to think differently and consider alternative possibilities in all areas.

He claims that postmodern capitalism treats social and environmental costs as meaningless externalities, and thwarts our innate desire to find meaning through inner experience. The invitation is to:

“Reckon with yourself honestly. If your work is contributing to the problems we face — exacerbating consumerism, purveying more distraction, extracting wealth from the poor — then change careers. Use your skills and resources to do something that helps address the situation in some way.”

Decisions on what kind of business to start, who to work for, which consumer choices to make and which stocks to invest in are concrete votes of confidence (i.e. voting with your dollar) for processes that may have substantial, harmful impacts on people and the planet.

Those of us with access to knowledge about how the sausage is made and ability to support alternative products (whether food or furniture or software), work for mission-driven organizations, invest in alternative asset classes or build businesses with humane intentions have a great responsibility to exercise those votes thoughtfully.

What we create and consume is an expression of who we are and what we value. It is becoming critical to be mindful of how these truths–including all our fears and biases–will manifest in our products and teams, families and communities.

Forming a more mindful society.

It’s no surprise that mindfulness has become one of the biggest trends in corporate America. As the cultural conversation shifts towards diversity and inclusion, ethical design and corporate citizenship, we’re seeing executives focus on inner work and systems thinking in recognition of how these changes can be healthy for the single, double or triple bottom lines.

The new paradigm can be summed up by the Ram Das mantra:

“I can do nothing for you but work on myself, and you can do nothing for me but work on yourself.”

People create businesses and businesses create society. Imagine a world where our leaders have been trained in vulnerability and psychological safety, emotional intelligence and non-violent communication, meditation and other contemplative practices. Consider the possibilities when people are allowed to bring their whole selves to work.

It’s not what you do, it’s how you do it that makes a difference. How people and organizations operate is every bit as important as what product or service they’re offering, because of the ripple effect it has across all stakeholders and their communities, as individuals become champions who share their practice and inspire and serve others.

These emerging leaders are practicing diligently and unwilling to compromise their values or sell their soul in pursuit of their missions.

“Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”

— Mary Oliver

I may forever wrestle with this question. My ancestors worked hard and made sacrifices for generations so I could do what?

At minimum, I have determined I can’t afford to waste energy on serving an organization that doesn’t serve the whole or nourish my soul. There is an axiom that says money is influence. If this is true, and because I am being with more resources invested in me than most people who have ever walked the Earth, then I have a salient responsibility to be more deliberate in my actions and choices in life. Money, resources and access have as much power to create as they do to destroy when not aligned with a purpose to serve a greater good.

I think about money and purpose a lot. This is largely due to having a lifetime of the former and dearth of the latter, and more recently through attempting to understand my own engagement with capitalism, heteropatriarchy and other dominant systems.

I readily acknowledge that I grew up with so much, had no student loans, and will likely never be without a meal or a roof over my head. I’m tremendously grateful for these support structures, because they have given me the ability to take untold personal and professional risks in order to expand my perspectives and focus on work that serves a higher purpose.

It has taken living in several developing countries and participating in forums to liberate myself from pressures of expectation and discuss these important questions in order to become acutely aware of my biases, undo conditioning from my socioeconomic bubble, and understand our systems from different perspectives.

What is uniquely yours to do?

What resources and performances do you have access to that others do not? What hardships or injustices have you or loved ones suffered from?

The Dalai Lama insists:

“The Planet does not need more ‘successful people.’ The planet desperately needs more peacemakers, healers, restorers, storytellers and lovers of all kinds.”

For me, I struggled with tech addiction, so I’ve decided to focus on helping others build healthier relationships with technology.

Recently it dawned on me that I’ve had the unique experience of being able to dedicate time and money for personal development directly out of college. Recognizing the value of beginning this kind of work so early in my young adult life inspired me to create a community within my alma mater, to connect those who are interested in personal growth and in integrating that with their work in the world.

Coming to terms with my advantages in life has fueled my enthusiasm for getting resourceful and showing others what’s possible. I intend on using my personal resources–educational, financial, network and other–to figure out how to create and support a future that works for all beings everywhere.

I am far too privileged not to.

“The time is always right to do what is right.”

— Martin Luther King Jr.

It feels so right to rise into a leadership position today because of the groundswell of progressive business and cultural movements that assure us that we will be supported in the ways we want to create moving forward.

It’s this tsunami of innovative thinking that makes it life affirming for us to be in the business world and contribute to an effort far greater than ourselves, whether that means making our products more accessible, valuing greater diversity our teams and cap tables, exploring financial instruments that better align incentives, or creating team cultures that helps each other grow and thrive.

I was never able to get excited about starting something for the sake of striking it big or proving myself. As excited as I have been to make Siempo a reality, I am just as motivated by the path we could walk to get there in a different way, so we can be part of a humane business movement that becomes a light for others. You can’t be what you can’t see.

It’s time to heed the call of Buckminster Fuller to:

“Make the world work, for 100% of humanity, in the shortest possible time, through spontaneous cooperation, without ecological offense or the disadvantage of anyone.”

Are you dedicated to practicing and supporting humane business?

Join us 🙃

If any of this resonates, feel free to shoot me a note at andrewmurradyunn at gmail dot com so we can explore how we can co-create. It brings me great joy to meet likeminded folks and help connect each other to what we are looking for 💜

Andrew Murray Dunn is a Co-Founder and CEO at Siempo, giving people their lives back from tech addiction.

He envisions a world in which we have figured out how to make it work together so each of us can flourish. We have the resources, imagination and motivation to do so.

Find Andrew chirping about digital wellness and conscious entrepreneurship on Twitter and LinkedIn. Hint: he won’t turn down a Bay Area sunset viewing invitation.