CEOs Pledge to Focus on 'Stakeholder' Value

The CEOs of Amazon, AT&T, Comcast, and Fox are among 181 CEOs that have signed on to a new definition of corporate interest that focuses on all stakeholders rather than just shareholders.

In part the move is in self defense. The companies acknowledge that without such inclusiveness, folks will start raising legitimate questions about big companies. Washington certainly has its eye out on Big Tech--how it got that way and what it has been doing with all that size and power.

The Business Roundtable, an association of CEOs that promotes economic growth, issues periodic principles of corporate governance, all essentially endorsing the primacy of shareholders' interests.

"With today’s announcement, the new Statement supersedes previous statements and outlines a modern standard for corporate responsibility," the roundtable said in a statement on its website, suggesting that the new policy is more reflective of how corporations must, and in some cases already are, operating.

"[W]e know that many Americans are struggling," read the roundtable commitment. "Too often hard work is not rewarded, and not enough is being done for workers to adjust to the rapid pace of change in the economy. If companies fail to recognize that the success of our system is dependent on inclusive long-term growth, many will raise legitimate questions about the role of large employers in our society."

The new statement of corporate governance is as follows:

Statement on the Purpose of a Corporation

"Americans deserve an economy that allows each person to succeed through hard work and creativity and to lead a life of meaning and dignity. We believe the free-market system is the best means of generating good jobs, a strong and sustainable economy, innovation, a healthy environment and economic opportunity for all.

"Businesses play a vital role in the economy by creating jobs, fostering innovation and providing essential goods and services. Businesses make and sell consumer products; manufacture equipment and vehicles; support the national defense; grow and produce food; provide health care; generate and deliver energy; and offer financial, communications and other services that underpin economic growth.

"While each of our individual companies serves its own corporate purpose, we share a fundamental commitment to all of our stakeholders. We commit to:

"Delivering value to our customers. We will further the tradition of American companies leading the way in meeting or exceeding customer expectations.

"Investing in our employees. This starts with compensating them fairly and providing important benefits. It also includes supporting them through training and education that help develop new skills for a rapidly changing world. We foster diversity and inclusion, dignity and respect.

"Dealing fairly and ethically with our suppliers. We are dedicated to serving as good partners to the other companies, large and small, that help us meet our missions.

"Supporting the communities in which we work. We respect the people in our communities and protect the environment by embracing sustainable practices across our businesses.

"Generating long-term value for shareholders, who provide the capital that allows companies to invest, grow and innovate. We are committed to transparency and effective engagement with shareholders.

"Each of our stakeholders is essential. We commit to deliver value to all of them, for the future success of our companies, our communities and our country."

CCIA, which represents some of the largest computer and edge companies, encouraged and applauded the roundtable's "re-articulation of purpose," but with language that suggested its members were already on that train.

“CCIA has always been sensitive to the uniquely significant role of technology and communications, and believe advancing our members’ interest means also advancing consumers’ interests and the broad public interest in preserving liberty and an open democratic society," said CCIA president Ed Black. "The tech industry has a unique ability to enhance peoples’ ability to gather information, learn, analyze, and communicate - thus supporting the fundamentals of our free society. We appreciate the Business Roundtable’s effort to redefine the positive role its private sector members can also have in protecting and advancing the interests of their many stakeholders and society at large."

CCIA members include Amazon, Facebook, Google, Netflix and Univision.

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.