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Ethical considerations for psychedelic businesses


Pascal Tremblay

August 1, 2021

8 min read

Business is one of the most powerful forces in the world, and business, like most of us, is currently undergoing a profound period of unlearning…away from disconnection and into connection, away from destruction and into harmony. Entrepreneurs are working through a lot simultaneously. It can be exciting and overwhelming all at once, especially when breaking ground into a new and multi-dimensional industry like psychedelics. That’s one of the reasons why conversations around ethics and best practices are so essential to have this early and to include as many voices as possible to get things right.

There’s a lot we have to figure out together. Still, I believe psychedelic entrepreneurs have an opportunity to create new models of business that are regenerative, multi-dimensional and engines for deep compassion and collaboration. Ultimately, our human destiny is closely linked to the actions of all other living things. That principle is a core lesson psychedelic experiences can offer. So how do we bring some of those lessons into our businesses?

I come with questions, not answers… I am not an expert on ethics or the “best” way forward. Hopefully, these questions can spark some ideas in you, conversations with others, and more questions we can all work through together.

1. How do we create businesses that better reflect natural systems?

Nature, in my opinion, is our greatest teacher. In an age of increasing complexity and disruption, models of organizing our businesses need to evolve to increase their capacity for change and collaboration. In his seminal book Reinventing Organizations, Frederic Laloux created a model to define all business structures. He ranked them in a range of colours, like Red for the old-school top-down organizations like the military to more evolutionary ones closer to how nature works, called Teal. I find his model fascinating because it can help to quickly understand where our business practices are positioned. Are we operating from older power structures or newer ones that mimic organic systems that prioritize the human spirit and the collective over business metrics and competition? What areas could we be operating more from a space of evolutionary purpose?

At the PAC, we have been striving to stay in the Teal model. We have found that the mimicking of systems found in nature to be the closest reflection of the lessons learned during psychedelic experiences.

How would the psychedelic space look like in 30 years if all businesses today strived to embrace evolutionary models of management based on nature? How could it help change other industries as well?

Here’s a map I found online to get an overview of all the business structures in the model. It’s a useful tool that can help us keep track of our practices and elevate our businesses to higher levels of consciousness and collaboration.

Map credit:

2. How do we support new entrepreneurs and guide them toward sets of best practices and guidelines?

There’s a large amount of FOMO right now in participating in psychedelic businesses. How can we onboard and inspire people into a framework and set of principles to avoid the pitfalls of runaway capitalism? Could this come in the way of a business pledge like the North Star Pledge? If so, how do we keep businesses accountable? Could we create a certification process like B Corporations in the US, for example? And how do we provide self-accountability tools and ethics training for existing businesses that want to do better? How can we create inclusive networks and spaces to help train and support new entrepreneurs with skills and eldership, ethics and cultural training, and accessing conscious capital?

3. How do we create businesses that don’t run in silos but rather cross-pollinate knowledge, resources, and energy?

It's time we heal ourselves out of business. It’s not that business itself is terrible; it’s that the old-school way of conducting business can often feel shallow and disconnected from the systems that keep life and people healthy and thriving. Competition-at-all-cost is an archaic thought. While it has created immense amounts of material wealth for a fraction of the world, it has contributed to a majority of us feeling empty, in need, and alone. We need to shed that skin and evolve into our full potential as nodes that pulse as a global network of closely connect minds and hearts. I have seen beautiful collaboration in the psychedelic space and the emergence of this new paradigm. I hope we can continue that way and find new innovative ways to step into it even more.

Extractive businesses got us to this challenging point in our history, but regenerative, kind, and generous companies are going to help pull us out of it. People in this space have often experienced deep connections with themselves and other living beings through transformative psychedelic experiences, so how do we translate that connection into business practices? How do we create multi-dimensional organizations that openly share knowledge, resources, and support to other companies in the space? How can we elevate each other in service to the greater purpose? How can we create spaces for meaningful connections to further realize our shared humanity and take back our collective power for change?

4. How do we give back as much as possible?

These days, people connect with and want brands with authentic purpose at their core. Businesses can be excellent vehicles for wealth creation but also in helping redefine what wealth truly means. That’s one of the critical elements for humanity moving forward, shifting the definition of wealth from surface metrics to more meaningful ones like empowerment, happiness and wellbeing.

What if the psychedelic industry led the way to create businesses that make just enough profits to keep going but alsohold a core mission to give back to people and empower communities in need? What if we honoured the people, places, and cultures we take from and give back to them in generous reciprocity? What if we viewed the world as an abundant place where all businesses are called by an evolutionary purpose to contribute to the wellbeing of the collective?

Giving back and honouring all our relationships are lessons psychedelics offer us. In my opinion, a post-capitalism model where evolutionary purpose comes first and profits second is the only way forward if businesses want to trulythrive in the next 100 years.

5. How do we use business as grounds for our own healing?

We often think about businesses as a vehicle for delivering services or products. But what if we saw business as a mirror into our own soul? What if business transactions and relationships are treated with the same reverence as a ceremonial space? What if we saw connecting and healing ourselves as our most important audience? What if we didn’t separate our business from our personal shadow work? What is going on inside our emotional and spiritual bodies will eventually surface to light and show up in our products and relationships, even with great marketing.

Expanding the healing outwards, how can our businesses be a vehicle for coming into the right relationship with the planet and reciprocity with Indigenous peoples? How would that change how we do business? Could we then have a richer view of what our business does and CAN do?

6. How do we play big and widen the lens?

We’re in the middle of a mental health crisis and repairing centuries of harmful systems in ourselves and in society. There’s a lot of important work to do, and it’s time to be bold with our actions.

What if companies aimed high with their purpose and had lofty but reachable aspirations for transformational change? What if we saw business not just as a tool for growing profits but also for influencing change in policy, people and culture? How do we identify and engage with social movements outside of psychedelics to include them, learn from them, and support their work? What could that look like?

7. How do we heal our relationship with money?

Our relationship with money can cut both ways. We sometimes want too much money and become blind from it, or we are resistant to asking for money, and we struggle financially. This is a common theme in the psychedelic space. Many of us are dedicating our lives to helping others and doing so with altruistic compassion and reverence for the spiritual and cultural aspects of psychedelic therapy. In parallel to our own relationship to money, there is a surge of investors wanting to pour money into the psychedelic space. All of that put together means we’re now having to face our own relationship to money, profits, and capitalism.

How do we balance the need for capital to grow the psychedelic space with the compassionate, spiritual, and cultural elements that anchor this work? How do we determine what conscious capital is and when we’ve had enough of it to grow our businesses? What if we saw money as an energy exchange that can be given and received with joy when it comes from the heart? What if we were comfortable with psychedelic businesses that flourish financially but also impact the world in beautiful ways? What would it look like if psychedelic businesses practiced transparency regarding their finances and partnerships? What if we stopped feeling shy about helping people and getting a fair wage for it? How could we help transform and inspire existing and future for-profits businesses to use their capital with wisdom and compassion?

What’s next?

We’re at an interesting point in time right now where there are so many large social issues to address but in parallel to that there is a swell of courageous, aware, and conscious entrepreneurs that are working to change things in a meaningful way. A majority of systems and ways of thinking that have been the dominating narrative in the last century are ready to evolve into better ways of being and doing that respects and regenerates the web of life we are all a part of. The opportunities ahead are only limited by our imagination in bringing them to life.

Guided by wisdom, spirit, and heart, I have high hopes for the psychedelic industry in creating highly conscious businesses that will support the continued emergence of humanity as a force for good in the world.

Let’s do it right and let’s do it together.

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