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posted by janrinok on Friday October 11 2019, @10:07PM   Printer-friendly
from the would-it-work? dept.

The rise, fall and rise again of businesses

What's the purpose of a business? For a long time, the textbook answer to that question has been purely "to make as much money as possible for its shareholders". But business leaders – who often themselves get huge payouts from this model – are beginning to challenge this orthodoxy.

Or so it seems. The influential Business Roundtable association of top US business leaders, which includes CEOs of Apple, Boeing, Walmart and JP Morgan, made a landmark statement in August. They committed "to lead their companies for the benefit of all stakeholders – customers, employees, suppliers, communities and shareholders". Maximising profits, they said, would no longer be their primary goal.

For many, it was seen as an historic moment for business. Markets, however, greeted the news with a yawn. Both the Dow Jones and the S&P 500 in the US increased marginally on the day of the announcement.

[...] This brief history has us lurching back and forth between the ideas of shareholder versus stakeholder primacy that have waxed and waned over the decades. Are we doomed to pontificate on this endlessly?

As a way forward, I would advocate for a modest approach to end this interminable debate. A Hippocratic oath for corporations, based on seven principles:

1. Do no evil.

2. Pay taxes and adhere to laws and regulations.

3. Avoid interfering in politics.

4. Do not deny science.

5. Focus on core competencies and embrace competition.

6. If invested in the stakeholder model, ensure that stakeholders are represented in your governance structures.

7. If concerned about inequality, start at home.

This approach can help restore faith in corporations, protect their brands and reputation, and avoid accusations of hypocrisy, while focusing their attention on what they truly do best – producing goods or services. To paraphrase the writer Anand Giridharadas: "Avoid virtue signalling and virtuous side projects; do your day jobs more honourably."

And to quote Milton Friedman, business "should engage in activities designed to increase its profits so long as it stays within the rules of the game, which is to say, engages in open and free competition without deception or fraud".

What do you guys think ??

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  • (Score: 1, Informative) by Anonymous Coward on Saturday October 12 2019, @01:57AM (2 children)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday October 12 2019, @01:57AM (#906158)

    If a parasite is too effective in maximizing its survival and draining its host, the hosts will die without reproducing, eventually leaving the parasite without new hosts.

    Likewise with farmers - you can't plant the same crop over and over and not expect your land to be ruined. You have to take care of your land to maximize production.

    Business sees no problem stripping everything because there's always a new untapped market/cheaper labor force to move on to. But we'll eventually run out of new places to swarm and consume.

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  • (Score: 2) by The Mighty Buzzard on Saturday October 12 2019, @02:20AM (1 child)

    by The Mighty Buzzard (18) Subscriber Badge <> on Saturday October 12 2019, @02:20AM (#906170) Homepage Journal

    Neither do unions or any other socialistic organization.

    My rights don't end where your fear begins.
    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Saturday October 12 2019, @04:16AM

      by Anonymous Coward on Saturday October 12 2019, @04:16AM (#906226)

      Unions have little purpose or power without a business to bargain with. And agreed, a union that prioritizes its own enrichment over the survival of its company is not acting in the best interest of either. IIRC the iimmolation of the former Hostess baking co. by the actions of (the Teamsters?) a while back may be a lone exception where the company was better euthanized than continuing under poor and abusive management as it was.