4 ways to build businesses that work for good, right now

Breaking news from the CEO Roundtable this fall sent a combination of shockwaves, enthusiasm and relief throughout the business world. As the headlines proudly proclaimed, 181 CEOs of the world’s largest corporations have finally figured out that it’s time for a shift from shareholder to stakeholder capitalism. No longer is merely making money a sufficient corporate purpose; rather, businesses must “share a fundamental commitment to all of their stakeholders,” including customers, workers, suppliers and the broader communities within which they operate.

For people working in social enterprise and impact investing, this is not news, although it is very much welcome. However, the bigger and still-outstanding question remains: will this be merely a press release that achieves little beyond a season’s-worth of good PR, or will it lead to tangible, substantive change?

On the one hand, there are myriad ways corporations can tweak around the edges to improve their workforce policies, environmental policies and so forth. On the other hand, despite being well-intentioned, such efforts can – and all too often are – wiped out by a new CEO or a disappointing financial quarter. What about deeper, more permanent and lasting change at the ‘company DNA’ level?

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