The Business Roundtable (BTR) lobby group, representing 181 US companies, got a personal message from some major organizations in Sunday’s New York Times. A group of 30+ business leaders, as part of the B Corp movement, are taking out a full-page ad in the Sunday edition, a letter that urges the Business Roundtable group to include goals for environmental and employee care within its definition of the purpose of a corporation.
BTR recently redefined the “purpose of corporation” – changing the phrase from focusing on shareholder profits to a more general sense of an economy that serves all Americans. The B Corp movement is asking them to put their money where their mouths are. B Corp organizations include Patagonia, Natura, Unilever, Danone, and more.
“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. We operate with a better model of corporate governance – which gives us, and could give you, a way to combat short-termism and the freedom to make decisions to balance profit and purpose.”
The B Corp is certainly happy with the news coming from BTR, but the advert doubles down in order to pressure BTR into not just talking the talk, but walking the walk.
It’s an interesting time to be a company. As The Guardian reports, Milton Friedman coined the philosophy of businesses as having a social responsibility to increase profits. The BTR message changes this decades-long notion – but clearly members of the B Corp wonder if this isn’t just posturing in order to save face.
This begs the question – should your company reimagine its own purpose to the community? Even if your integration firm isn’t national, every business makes an impact on the local economy, and every business can potentially affect the environment as well. As companies react to major social changes among US consumers – change that sees more emphasis on social responsibility and acceptance, as well as a duty to clean the environment – should those companies also adopt these social changes? Will customers gravitate toward organizations that fall more in line with certain perceived moral obligations?
In many cases going green can actually help the bottom line. Clean energy is becoming cheaper than ever, and organizations can receive tax breaks through programs such as LEED from USGBC. So there could be a significant monetary benefit alongside the social benefit of adopting green programs.
Certainly something to think about for you business owners.