The belief that a corporation’s paramount duty is owed to shareholders has been the greatest obstacle to business ethics in the last 50 years.
That belief appears to be changing, at least for the CEOs of Johnson & Johnson, JPMorgan Chase, IBM, and the other 200 or so American CEOs that are members of the Business Roundtable (BRT).
The BRT is finally recognizing the equal importance of employees, suppliers, the communities where we work, and of the environment in general. Going forward, when shareholder monies will have to be spent on protective equipment for employees, we won’t have to demonstrate that the cost of steel toe boots for 1,000 employees is cheaper that the cost of a hospital visit for the occasional injury. We will be able to say, simply, that we want our employees to be safe at work. Similarly, when we give our employees the day off to clean the banks of a local river, it will be because we want to give back to our host city and not because we seek some productivity gain from “happy” employees.
The BRT CEOs have spoken. They are pointing the rest of the corporate world in a new direction. It’s time we all start marching.