Our mindful man for the month of December is Matt Stinchcomb who leads a team at Etsy that is determined to make a difference in the way business is done.
Mindful people come in many forms. The conscious community is comprised of spiritualists, yogis, doctors, health experts and crusaders for peace and love among others, but too rarely do we read about mindful business people.
Business, as it is traditionally done, is almost diametrically opposed to mindfulness. Economics (making money) is the bottom line, but that has begun to change under the watch of people like Matt Stinchcomb, vice president of values and impact at Etsy.com.
Etsy is an online, international marketplace that connects one million small businesses and about 40 million consumers, allowing people all over the world a medium that can be used to buy and sell hand-made and vintage goods.
Etsy’s mission is to “reimagine commerce in ways that build a lasting and fulfilling world,” as it is stated on their company website. What this means is that they put a premium on social and ecological responsibility, which is where Matt Stinchcomb’s job comes into play. He strives to promote mindfulness in Etsy’s workspaces and among its employees, and he believes that the only truly sustainable business is one where those involved are mindful of their relationships to each other, their consumers and the planet. Basically, they are trying to make a difference by being diligent about how they conduct their business.
Stinchcomb was Etsy’s first employee. At the time, he had no background in business. In fact, he was a musician prior to being hired by the founders who made him the original marketing agent. After a two-year stint in Germany, helping the international branch get off the ground, he returned to the U.S. and took over a marketing team that was focused on branding and social responsibility.
Corporate social responsibility (CSR) is not nearly a new idea in the world of commerce, but the history of it is marred by green facades and poor efforts. For decades, corporations have thrown money at charities and demanded employee participation in eco-friendly activities to divert attention away from their less mindful practices. Another problem is that many companies who do take it (CSR) seriously have a tendency to isolate it as a branch of the organization rather than find ways to make mindful practices pervasive throughout the organization.
Stinchcomb credits his (and the founders’) relative inexperience in entering the world of mission-driven business as the reason that they were able to take a different approach. In an interview with newdream.org he was quoted as saying, “…we didn’t know the rules, the status quo. We just knew that a lot of times, what was supposed to be the ‘right’ way to do something felt awful.”
So they took this awful feeling and turned into something extremely hopeful and positive. Etsy’s objective is to go beyond the traditional mindful practices that many companies employ by using their business to affect change. Matt Stinchcomb believes that large scale and lasting impacts can be achieved by using Etsy’s platform, which connects tens of millions of people, to teach others how to live more consciously of themselves, their communities, their business relationships and their environment. Etsy is a certified Benefit Corporation or “B-Corp,” meaning that they use their business as leverage to solve social and environmental problems.
The impact starts on a small scale, in the workplace. Stinchcomb and his team of four, who act as inside consultants for the rest of the company, encourage mindful practices in the office to foster more present employees (from leaders to entry-level employees) and more creative thinking.
For instance, they’ve created a learning and development team that brings in practitioners of mindfulness meditation to coach people in their office. They also have a Breathing Room, and this space is reserved for people to be able to sit in silence whether that is in the form of meditation, reading a book or simply sitting and thinking. Several times a week there are group and guided meditation sessions, but the only requirement for spending time in the room is that one must not talk inside and must leave all digital devices at the door.
As Stinchcomb explains it, the goal, of offering people within the organization these options to take personal time during a workday, is to change the culture of a place a business. He believes that allowing people to focus on their well-being will resonate throughout the organization by catalyzing a greater sense of mindfulness throughout all aspects of the company.
One way in which Stinchcomb’s team has made changes on the ecological level was to begin converting all Etsy offices to solar power, but he sees this as the first step in making a much larger impact. Ideally, he would like to have all one million businesses that are part of Etsy’s network switch to solar power. His duty, and his personal mission has become developing ways of making such things possible using the power of business. One idea is that Etsy will offer incentives to all companies that convert, incentives such as primary featuring on the marketplace’s website.
One of the current efforts for the value and impact team at Etsy is the Open Impact project. It is a new site that is meant to be a forum where actively responsible and mindful businesses can exchange ideas and procedures, so that people and businesses can learn from each other.
When reading interviews with Matt Stinchcomb, one can easily tell that he is proud of the progress Etsy has made. In a sense, Etsy’s financial success is proof that business can be done in better ways, and Stinchcomb is one of the heads of the movement that believes that people will do business this way if they are given the right tools to do so. B-Corporations like Etsy are beginning to build a world where people are more conscious and responsible for the way commerce is conducted.
In Matt Stinchcomb’s words from an interview with mindful, “We want to be mindful of the ramifications of the decisions that we make.” I’m not an experienced business person, but this sounds like a pretty simple and logical blueprint for trying to make a difference in the world, and it seems to be working.