In 2019, the US Business Roundtable, which represents the chief executives of the world’s largest companies, rejected the long-held view that ‘corporations exist principally to serve their shareholders’.
Instead, after 20 years, the Roundtable asserted that they share a fundamental commitment to all stakeholders: customers, employees, suppliers, communities, as well as shareholders. Post-financial crisis, trust in business plummeted and corporations saw the value, or necessity, of committing to a purpose that looked beyond profits, coupled by a perceived diminishing role of governments in environmental and social affairs. In both language and action, the discussion around responsible business has shifted away from corporate social responsibility strategies, towards the profound and proactive role businesses play as the main actors driving social and environmental efforts.
In 2020, employees, consumers and the wider public are acutely aware of the actions of companies and, as such, these companies are held to account if their behaviours do not reflect this commitment – but to what extent are profit and purpose truly viable, and is it in fact business critical? Should businesses be honest about prioritizing shareholder profits, or better communicate purpose to shareholders? Are environmental, social and governance (ESG) criteria adequate and fit for purpose? Can impact be accurately measured and therefore improve accountability and inform business strategy? Where is regulation effective in driving responsible behaviour, and how can this inform policy?
The Responsible Business 2020 conference will address these questions, as well as provide focused sessions on two critical issues facing companies: the climate crisis and data privacy. Denise Delaney, Senior Director at SustainAbility, will speak on the Climate Crisis panel.
The Chatham House Rule
To enable as open a debate as possible, this conference will be held under the Chatham House Rule.