Why do we talk about Multiple Capitals?

“Always remember, your focus determines your reality.” — George Lucas

Suggested Reading Time: 3 minutes


In a study on our ability to focus, a researcher asked people to watch a video in which six people, three in white shirts and three in black shirts, pass basketballs around and asked them to count the number of times the team in white shirts passed the ball. At some point, a gorilla strolls into the middle of the action beats its chest and spends 10 seconds on screen before leaving.

Would you see the gorilla? Almost everyone says, “Yes of course I would.” However, Harvard University found that half of the people who watched the video and counted the passes missed the gorilla. It was as though the gorilla was invisible.

When it comes to “capital” our results can often be the same.

Imagine a business where you were asked to count the number of financial transactions taking place. Your job is to focus on the financial capital of the business. When asked if you would notice other forms like human capital, I’m sure you would answer “Yes, of course I would.” How could something so obvious go completely unnoticed?

Yet, when asked to focus on one form of capital, like those in the study, most of us miss the other really important forms of capital. Without paying attention to a range of capitals we dramatically reduce the chance of creating blended value.  

We can create businesses that benefit people and the planet when all forms of capital – human, environmental, spiritual, cultural and financial are valued and flow together.


Like you, we want our work to be a meaningful expression of who we are and what we care about. But it’s not always easy.

We often see mission driven organisations focus on the social capital and ignore the health of the financial capital. Of course, we also have many examples of businesses that lean towards a focus on financial capital, missing the very real needs of the human, social and environmental capital they have a responsibility and interest in supporting.

This is too simplistic a world view. We need organisations that work from the basis of integration and recognition of the role and importance of all forms of capital.

We need to harness all capital to flow together towards a better future.

We need people brave enough to lead transformational change and inspire new systems that value all forms of capital.

We’re driven towards a future where all forms of capital – human, environmental, spiritual, cultural and financial are valued and flow together to create businesses that benefit people and planet.

Where doing good while making money is everyone’s business.