A recent New York Times article describes a decided priority shift in the corporation thought leadership arena, proclaiming, “Shareholder Value Is No Longer Everything, Top C.E.O.s Say…Chief executives from the Business Roundtable, including the leaders of Apple and JPMorgan Chase, argued that companies must also invest in employees and deliver value to customers.” This will no doubt spawn gazillions of thought leadership articles.
Notes the article, “Nearly 200 chief executives, including the leaders of Apple, Pepsi and Walmart, tried on Monday to redefine the role of business in society — and how companies are perceived by an increasingly skeptical public. Breaking with decades of long-held corporate orthodoxy, the Business Roundtable issued a statement on “the purpose of a corporation,” arguing that companies should no longer advance only the interests of shareholders. Instead, the group said, they must also invest in their employees, protect the environment and deal fairly and ethically with their suppliers.”
The article adds, “‘While each of our individual companies serves its own corporate purpose, we share a fundamental commitment to all of our stakeholders,’ the group, a lobbying organization that represents many of America’s largest companies, said in a statement. ‘We commit to deliver value to all of them, for the future success of our companies, our communities and our country.’”
What have I and others of similar belief been saying for years? What have companies like Costco been doing for years? The Roundtable didn’t have to issue their own statement. They could have just copied down and read the corporate directives from enlightened companies that have proliferated and become ever-more-profitable.
Why did it take so long? The expression “Dawn breaks over Marblehead” describing the act of suddenly realizing something that was either very obvious, or that everybody else knew already is all too applicable here.
Thought leaders far and wide have pounded their fists, pontificated and professed about the importance of addressing and acknowledging all stakeholders. The fact that it’s taken so long to advance the cause in “Corporate America” reveals a very disturbing aspect of our society.
vs. Conscience: Two views of capitalism
The prevailing wind of capitalism has been from the Laissez Faire camp that seems to agree with Gordon Gecko’s famous “Greed is good” utterance in the movie “Wall Street.” In the movie, he decries “survival of the unfittest.” The strongest survive, wield the most power, make the most money.
Now, we have proof that Capitalism with a Conscience can uphold the ability to make lots of money, wield considerable power and survive just fine in concert with taking care of all stakeholders—including customers, employees and suppliers. In other words, it’s a true win/win.
Zero sum-gamers like Donald Trump and too many corporate powermongers believe that the only model is win/lose. To win, somebody has to lose. Shareholders make the most money when the most money is saved on the backs of customers, employees and suppliers.
Costco has famously countered this argument, going so far as to state that shareholders are not their only concern. Their profits are soaring. Just last week, I asked two employees at my regular Costco how long they’d been there. Their answers were 19 and 20 years. Given that I’ve been going to that store for 20 years, is it any wonder that I feel right at home seeing and interacting with these same people? That same comfortable feeling is part of the reason I part with so many dollars there. Everybody wins!
On one hand, it’s great to see more of “Corporate America” espousing these views. Let’s see if their actions truly match their words. Will their thought leadership pronouncements, both verbal and written, line up with subsequent actions? Or will it be more rhetoric designed to pull the wool over our heads a while longer—as we’ve become accustomed to in “Trumpdom” (or should I say “Trumpdumb”) the last three-plus years?
Thought leadership content provides a valuable customer service when developed as a way to impart useful, memorable expert advice. It also serves the dual purpose of being an excellent marketing avenue when written from a knowledgeable, heartfelt, even soul-felt perspective. This is the second in a series of four articles addressing thought leadership. It also kicks off the celebration of Mark Lusky Communications’ 37 years in business.
Mark Lusky is a veteran writer, storyteller and author, with 40+ years of public relations, advertising, marketing and journalism experience.