In a stunning new mission statement, the Roundtable, which represents nearly 200 of America’s blue-chip companies, downgraded shareholders. According to the Roundtable, the purpose of a corporation will no longer be to conduct business with the sole objective of generating profits for shareholders. Owners of corporations (read: shareholders) will now just be one of five “stakeholders”— alongside customers, workers, suppliers and communities — that will call the tune for corporations.
The Roundtable’s new anti-capitalist mission statement promises to dilute and muffle shareholders’ voices and further politicize corporate governance. In 1848, John Stuart Mill clearly saw where the Roundtable’s road map would lead. In his classic “Principles of Political Economy,” Mill wrote: “Laissez-faire, in short, should be the general practice; every departure from it, unless required by some great good, is certain evil.”
When it comes to economics, businessmen are notorious for talking nonsense. The Roundtable’s statement is a case in point. Any business that isn’t focused on its customers, employees, suppliers and communities does not have its eye on the ball. And that “ball” is profits for shareholders.