The Business Roundtable published a statement, The Purpose of the Corporation, signed by 181 of its 193 members. The Roundtable, a corporate lobbying group, includes CEOs of the largest U.S. companies.
In essence, the CEOs write that they have responsibilities beyond shareholders—to customers, employees, suppliers, and communities (including the environment). The statement is a step to improving the perception of businesses as solely driven by creating shareholder value through short-term profits.
Skeptics abound. A writer for the Washington Post called the statement a “truism”:
“What’s significant about the statement is what it does not say. The corporate signatories do not suggest in any way weakening the fiduciary duties of the boards and managers of ordinary for-profit shareholder corporations to manage such companies’ affairs for shareholders’ benefit.”
The CEO of Allstate and head of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce wrote an opinion piece in the New York Times encouraging businesses to pay people more if they’re serious about serving more stakeholders.
A writer for Forbes argued that these companies are multinationals and have global responsibilities as well. He also accused the executives of being self-serving, warding off criticism about executive compensation.
Others noted company CEOs who didn’t sign, for example, Alcoa, Blackstone, GE, NextEra, Parker Hannifin, and Wells Fargo (whose representative said the CEO is interim and wasn’t asked to sign). Some companies, for example, Kaiser and State Farm, say they didn’t sign because they don’t have shareholders.
What’s your view of the statement: significant, placating, diverting, or something else?
Assess the statement itself. Consider the audience, purpose, writing style, organization, and so on. What works well, and what could be improved? What’s extraneous and what’s missing?