The Balance Between Profits and Responsibility

Balance Between Profits and Responsibility
Balance Between Profits and Responsibility

The Business Roundtable, a nationwide organization of America’s CEOs who represent nearly all of our largest companies, recently came out publicly in support of a balance between shareholder profits and social responsibility. More than 94% or 181 of the 192 members signed the statement.

Since 1978, the association had always espoused shareholder interests and profits as the primary aim of for-profit corporations. This abrupt change is the result of growing public advocacy in income equality and louder calls for corporate behavior.

What was not expanded upon in the announcement was how the signers to the new position statement intended to enact and implement changes within their own companies. Several of the companies that didn’t sign attributed either transitions between leadership or interim CEOs as the reason. The remainder said the absence of a signature did not mean that the company didn’t support the new position statement.

What’s Next?

Many of the CEOs who signed the statement are at companies that have already taken steps to be socially responsible. It’s unclear what this latest statement means for companies that have already been moving in that direction and for those who have yet to begin.

PR and Marketing Roles

One thing that brought this issue to the forefront is the widening gap between CEO salaries and the rest of a company’s workforce. You can bet there may likely be some active discussion about this at your next shareholder annual meeting so be prepared. Any response to a statement like this must be well thought through and unanimous among the board and senior staff before dissemination.

There’s also increasing pressure on corporations to take stands on critical issues affecting the public. This has also spurred employee activism at some companies with workers urging their employers to speak up and no longer partner with companies that support racism or immigration policies. Gender equity and a host of others are also hot buttons.

If your company is just making these changes in direction, one big change you could incorporate is engaging employees in the process. Not only will this empower them, but it will likely generate good suggestions and ideas.

While you’re at it, conduct an audit of your corporate sponsorships, community activities (including volunteering) and giving if you also have a foundation. It sometimes is wise and advisable to revise one or more to better reflect your company’s focus.

Also analyze comments from customers, clients, and even vendors. You can sometimes discover some gems of suggestions in there as well.

In proceeding with a new corporate focus that’s socially responsible, seriously consider inviting one or more nonprofit partners to join you in the effort. Doing so would not only broaden your potential positive exposure but also lend it a bit more credibility.

Change messaging on your website where appropriate and also invite feedback in sites where you’ve published this information. Of course, as PR and marketing pros, track your feedback. When relevant and in measurable numbers, analyze and report the findings to your staff.