The writer is a co-author of “Net Positive” and a former Chief Executive Officer of Unilever.
Business leader expectations have changed dramatically. When I was young, CEOs were expected to increase profits, shareholder satisfaction, and provide more work. Today, staff and customers believe that they need to embody the company’s values and speak out about big touchstone issues, from race to fake news and climate change.
Larry Fink, CEO of asset management company BlackRock, said Annual letter Last week: “We are focused on sustainability, not because we are environmentalists, but because we are capitalists and trustees of our clients.”
In difficult times, a more morally conscious business elite must certainly be good. We live in historic moments of multiple converging global challenges, and our governments and multilateral institutions are stuck.
However, not everyone agrees. Traditionalists have long argued that focusing on sustainability often comes at the expense of running a good business. Discussion Last week, it surrounds my old company Unilever. Increasingly, criticism also comes from the political realm. There, every time the “activist CEO” speaks, some of the facilities shout “awakened capitalism.”
In the United States, some Republicans have been part of the Republican Party following a Fortune 500 CEO bipartisan coalition helping stop anti-homosexuals and anti-LGBT bills and campaigning to keep the United States in the climate change agreement in Paris. Suspicion of awakening is drawing attention among them. Companies from Amazon to General Motors are openly opposed to attempts by state legislators to limit voters’ rights.
Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell couldn’t have been clarified any further. “My warning to American companies is to move away from politics,” he quickly revealed: “I’m not talking about political contributions.” The statement seems bad, but cash is okay.
This is a rough tactic. If you don’t like what the CEO says, put the CEO back in the box. And that’s dangerous. Many business leaders are still finding this difficult area. The fact that it is being moved more by the times to get out of the bystander should be welcomed. Politicalizing this shift is anti-democratic and curbs economic growth.
For sound democracy, it’s far better for corporate leaders to openly set up stalls than for politicians, trade associations, and the media to bid quietly. Salesforce’s Mark Branson when Richard Branson of Virgin accused the death penalty of being punitive and racialist (or offered to relocate staff to escape Texas’s regressive new blame law) Benioff), I happen to agree. I commend former IBM CEOs Ginni Rometty and Merck’s Ken Frazier for tackling the systematic barriers faced by black employees without a college degree. In contrast, I think it’s a shame when I hear that the CEOs of some pharmaceutical companies are upholding the decision to withhold patents for life-saving vaccines from emerging markets. But I still like them to make their claims publicly.
Economically, there is a wealth of evidence of economic benefit to companies that consistently apply principles and are proactive in solving social problems. Silence the CEO who embodies this approach undermines corporate leadership and cultural style.
This does not mean that every corporate statement should be believed. Hundreds of companies have promised to withdraw funds from Republicans who promised to overturn the outcome of the 2020 presidential election after a deadly assault on the US Capitol on January 6, last year. Many celebrities, including Disney, Mastercard, and Nike, have kept their word, but others haven’t. After the murder of George Floyd in May 2020, a similar gap was seen between words and actions. Such contradictions directly affect the hands of those who are trying to undermine the credibility of their business activities.
But the answer is not to make the shallows a sincere enemy. From the pandemic economic revival to the urgent reduction of greenhouse gases, the availability of life-saving Covid vaccines to poor countries, and the bridging of race, gender and wealth disparities, businesses have a major role and responsibility. .. While the waves of populism and radicalism are showing no signs of retreat, our democracy is declining in the wrong stream of information.
So don’t drag down an executive who is truly ready to stand up. Most of them did not aim to be social leaders, but this is the responsibility given to them by the times. This is a moment that requires more leadership.
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