At the Labor Department, we’re focused on solutions that work for business, for communities, and for workers – and we know that there are lots of businesses out there that are living those solutions every day.
On Sept. 30, the White House convened 75 people from a range of companies, investment firms, business schools, foundations and other organizations. Despite their diverse backgrounds, all the participants share one thing in common: They all recognize that high-road, inclusive business practices have major benefits for business and investors, and they’re exploring different ways to implement them.
We asked the fundamental questions:
What is the business case for companies who are acting in their stakeholders’ interest?
How do we create an environment in which more companies can act with the long term and all stakeholders in mind?
What are the best metrics for evaluating long-term strategies?
There is so much movement in the area, and it was fascinating to hear from people like Kip Tindell, co-founder and chairman of The Container Store, and Danny Meyer, CEO of Union Square Hospitality Group, about how they’ve built successful companies by investing in their workforces.
Mary Schapiro, former chair of the Securities and Exchange Commission, and Audrey Choi, CEO of Morgan Stanley's Institute for Sustainable Investing, discussed how the investment community is evaluating long-term strategies, risks and opportunities, and the need for better metrics.
Andrew Kassoy, co-founder of B Lab, and Martin Whittaker, CEO of JUST Capital, described how organizations are encouraging standardization and broader understanding of companies’ impact.
As Secretary Perez noted at the beginning of the day, “we’re at the beginnings of a movement – a movement of business, government, and community leaders who believe that business can be a force for good and build a stakeholder economy.” And what it requires to grow and bloom is significantly more collaboration and understanding about the common path forward.
We’re proud of the significant progress the administration has made in helping to strengthen the middle class and address inequality in our economy, and we’re proud of the Labor Department’s role in that work. But we recognize there’s a limit to what we can do in our role as a regulator. That’s why we’re working with companies, investors and others to build a clear path to inclusive capitalism. We need partners to address inequality and create a better future for the next generation.
Kip Tindell concluded the conversation by noting that all companies, and indeed all people, leave a wake. Whether the economic waters of the next century are calm or stormy, the businesses best positioned for success are the ones who think not just about how they’re forging ahead, but about the impact of that progress on their communities.
As President Obama said in his 2016 State of the Union address, “That's part of a brighter future.”
Alison Omens is an adviser to the secretary for private sector engagement at the U.S. Department of Labor.