The bosses of some of the world’s biggest companies, including Apple and Amazon, have been told to put the planet before profits – not by environmental campaigners, but by the CEOs of other multinationals. The call came in the form of a full-page ad in the New York Times and directly addressed the Business Roundtable (BRT), a trade group that represents 181 of the US’s biggest companies. This follows the BRT’s recent announcement to refocus business for the “benefit of all stakeholders – customers, employees, suppliers, communities and shareholders”. The ad was taken out by a community of certified B Corporations, including Ben & Jerry’s and Patagonia. Certified B Corps commit to focusing on social and environmental value, as much as they do on profits. “We are part of a community of certified B Corporations who are walking the walk of stakeholder capitalism,” said the open letter. “We are successful businesses that meet the highest standards of verified positive impact for our workers, customers, suppliers, communities and the environment.”
In publishing the ad, B Corps are calling out those new to the value-beyond-profit ethos to ensure their statements are not without meaningful action. If companies are to rise to the challenge of going beyond words, the CFO must be on board to see value in its broadest sense. This means rethinking the prevailing philosophy under Milton Friedman, that “the social responsibility of business is to increase its profits”. What is perhaps most encouraging for this eventuality, is that the conversation is already happening between CEOs.