by Terrance Hunsley
I’m not a conspiracy person, but you know, it can be a fine line.
We want corporations to be good citizens, to exercise social responsibility. We don’t want unbridled profit-seeking to destroy our environment, our democracy, our privacy, our values.
So when the most powerful business group in the world says that corporations should pivot from solely serving shareholders, to also serve stakeholders like employees, customers, and the community, it sounds pretty good. And that’s what the Business Roundtable said last year in a statement signed by CEO’s of the world’s biggest corporations.(1)
Now the World Economic Forum (WEF), a private sector organization that convenes the world’s business and government elite every year at Davos, is attempting to roll that out across the globe. They are calling it “stakeholder capitalism”(2). This in their eyes, is the “Great Reset”. Capitalism, or more specifically, the CEO’s of big business, seem to be intending to make the world a better place.
Seems Like Good News
…Not only is calling on leaders to champion a culture of integrity and good governance the right thing to do, but it will also ensure that our global recovery efforts are not deviated by corruption.
They have some admirable starting goals. One is to clean up corruption. Especially in governments.
They suggest that …Advanced analytics and AI generate insight that can be used to better deter, detect and reveal corruption.
And they have formed a partnership with the UN …In collaboration with the GFC (Global Future Council), the UNODC-World Bank StAR Initiative and professional Gatekeepers, PACI (Partnering Against Corruption Initiative) is currently developing a “Unifying Framework” of practices and policies, which aims to coordinate and harmonize gatekeepers’ response to illicit financial flows.
So a major initiative, and potentially a good one, seems to be underway. For the WEF, it comes under the aegis of an even bigger objective:
…Stakeholder capitalism, …positions private corporations as trustees of society, and is clearly the best response to today’s social and environmental challenges.
WIll it be that “When all was said and done, more was said than done?”
That does seem to apply here so far. For one thing, the WEF has “sort of” promoted the stakeholder capitalism idea since about 1973. Clearly, more was said than done.
But this new initiative comes with the backing of the big CEO’s of the world, and with a lot more resources. The WEF is also a much larger and more powerful organization than it was in 1973.
Still it has been observed that the CEO’s who signed the Business Roundtable statement have had opportunity to act in accordance, but many have not done so. Most did not seek permission from their boards to sign the statement. A New York Times article (2020/09/22 Business Roundtable) observed that their subsequent actions, including employee layoffs in parallel with large dividend payouts, dispensing of employees after acquisitions, and issuing stock buybacks to increase share price and management bonuses, are out of tune with the statement.
So if they are not walking the talk, what is their real purpose?
Is the corporate world moving into the game of world government? They could rightfully point out that nation states have not done very well with things that are beyond their borders. The UN has little clout because member nations can’t put aside their competitive issues.
Cleaning up corruption would gain a lot of kudos for big business, so good on them if they can do it.
But government and business are not guided by the same values. In my mind, their roles should be kept separate. And if we value democracy, we’d best keep government on top.
(3) The annual costs of international corruption amount to a staggering $3.6 trillion in the form of bribes and stolen money, United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres said on International Anti-Corruption Day, December 9, 2018