News Release

Māori perspectives extend notion of conscious capitalism

An emerging Māori theory of value might help to develop a more sustainable, inclusive, and equitable approach to business.

Book Announcement

University of Auckland

Aotearoa New Zealand needs environmental and economic policies and practices that enable Māori values, say University of Auckland Business School academics Kiri Dell, Carla Houkamau, and Jamie Newth, together with Jason Mika of the University of Waikato.

In a recently published chapter titled 'Māori Perspectives on Conscious Capitalism', the authors say that while Māori and Māori businesses can’t be stereotyped, research shows a discernible pattern.

Māori imperatives for wealth creation are intergenerational and focus on value creation beyond financial profits, they write.

The researchers reviewed Western and Māori theories of value, values, and valuation and argue that Indigenous concepts of value have spiritual and material elements and centre on collective wellbeing as opposed to self-interest.

Their research analyses the shortcomings of the typical definition of 'conscious capitalism', often described as a philosophy of doing business driven by a higher purpose, combining profits with socially responsible choices that look after all stakeholders.

Although the researchers agree with the view that businesses should consider the interests of all stakeholders, they underline that, from a traditional Māori perspective, stakeholders include the environment as well as future and past generations.

"Conscious capitalism, in our view," write the authors, "offers useful principles that are in some ways relatable to Māori beliefs, but they're limited in terms of understanding how spirituality, whakapapa, and service to past and future generations are balanced as part of the process of wealth creation.

"Māori people whakapapa (genealogically link) to the natural world, and examples from our research, and others, show that Māori take a view that's aligned to sustainability imperatives because of an underlying spiritual belief that the environment is our ancestor.

"This spiritual connection has the effect of strengthening the commitment of entrepreneurs to advance their businesses, not only to create value for themselves and others but also to enable future generations to thrive."

Within the chapter, the researchers discuss the concept of manahau, an emerging te ao Māori theory of value, to illustrate how Māori perspectives extend the notion of conscious capitalism to incorporate Indigenous ways of thinking and operating.

Manahau, which combines mana (power, authority, and dignity) with hau (vitality of people, places, and objects) is grounded in te ao Māori.

"Manahau expands our profit- and capital-focused interpretation of economy where only what can be measured financially is considered of value. It sees human activity, including survival and wealth creation, as inextricably linked with community-based values and benefits rather than individualised productivity or benefits alone."

The extent to which manahau as a Māori conceptualisation of value can be realised within an economy that’s dominated by Western institutions and in which Māori are integrated requires enquiry on multiple fronts, say the authors, including pre and post-colonial Māori economic values and practice.

"We need environmental and economic policies and practices that enable Māori to do business in ways that align with Māori values that have resonance for both Māori and non-Māori enterprises."


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