: The Financial Times reports
on a new initiative by British think tank Tomorrow’s Company, undertaken with the support of 11 major multinational corporations, to address the governance issues faced by the next generation of corporate leivaithans.
According to John Manzoni, head of refining and marketing at BP and co-chair of the inquiry, “Companies should be addressing some of the problems facing the world, not in a philanthropic way but in a core, strategic way. But we seem to be among the least-trusted institutions, so there’s a dilemma.”
The inquiry will conduct interviews with major business leaders, NGOs, writers and academics, seeking the answers to four broad questions. Since they’re unlikely to ask me, I figured I’d provide the answers here anyway.
What should be the role of a company in society, globally and locally?: The role of business is to meet stakeholder expectations. That obviously means delivering profits to shareholders, but other stakeholders—customers, employees and communities—have more complex and changing expectations. Failure to live up to them will be costly for business. Companies need to monitor these expectations constantly, manage them as far as possible, and do what what they can to meet them.
How should companies collaborate with financial institutions, governments and civil society to tackle problems such as climate change? Err, yes.
How can companies manage and benefit from a diverse workforce while maintaining a strong core purpose? Put values as the center of the company. Make sure that those values are both real and distinctive (bland generalities mean nothing). Communicate those values aggressively internally and externally. Find ways to make them relevant to that diverse workforce. Empower people rather than exploiting them.
How can companies form productive and positive relationships with their critics? Listen. Go away, think about what you’ve heard. Then listen some more. Engage in conversation that is both honest and human. Make concrete promises and then deliver on them.