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Putting a Plan Behind Promises – How Business Roundtable Can Deliver on Their Commitments

The CEOs of 181 of the US’ biggest name brands, from Coca Cola to Apple, Best Buy to Macy’s this week signed onto the Business Roundtable’s “Statement on the Purpose of a Corporation,” which states: “While each of our individual companies serves its own corporate purpose, we share a fundamental commitment to all of our stakeholders….We commit to deliver value to all of them, for the future success of our companies, our communities and our country.”

The Twittersphere is lighting up with commentary. Some say it’s about time that business considered the impacts of its’ decisions on all stakeholders rather than only shareholders. Others are more critical – cynical about the potential for real change in the face of profit-seeking by business leaders and shareholders, and laws that may limit options leading to greater social benefit.

From REDF’s perspective, we were especially heartened by statements that echo the ethos of employment social enterprise, including: investing in employees, and explicitly mentioning fair compensation, training and education, diversity, inclusion, dignity, and respect; dealing fairly and ethically with suppliers; and supporting the communities in which they operate.

While we are eager to see the action that follows these words, we believe that practical change follows a change in values. This aspirational values statement by the US’ and the world’s leading companies offers hope, and a beacon that many others in business and politics will be watching closely.

We are part of the employment social enterprise field, which is 100% dedicated to creating job opportunities that lead to a better life for people who are generally excluded from the workforce and economic mobility, but want to work, and when given the chance, contribute so much.

To carry out the statement’s new commitments, we call on these 181 companies to:

  • Reassess hiring requirements, including education, criminal records, and credit histories, that create unnecessary hurdles, and prevent qualified people who can do the job and do it well, from applying.
  • Train managers to see the potential in people with backgrounds that might include periods of incarceration (viewed as ‘risk’) or homelessness (gaps in work histories).
  • Incentivize managers and support them to manage employees and build successful teams with people from non-traditional backgrounds (resources are available).
  • Develop explicit plans with accountability that put companies on a path to providing a living wage to every employee; and scheduling, benefits, training, and other practices that support families.
  • Purchase goods/services from employment social enterprise businesses– doing so delivers multiple benefits, including high quality, competitive pricing, the opportunity to strengthen your brand, and most importantly, change lives.

The Business Roundtable statement is not the end, but the start of a necessary process to reset business values and purpose with a more explicit focus on making life better for all people in our country; complementing the role of government and other institutions which are also changing. In the context of the ‘future of work,’ which also portends dramatic shifts, and recognizing how hard it is to create change at the depth and scale required, it is imperative to start. Onward.

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