But one nonprofit group, JUST Capital, is saying that capitalism itself is not the problem, as long as corporations are made answerable to all stakeholders, and not only to shareholders seeking to maximise financial gain.
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To that end, the organisation – billed as “the leading platform for measuring and improving corporate performance in the stakeholder economy” – on Tuesday released new rankings putting Microsoft Corp, NVIDIA Corp and Apple Inc at the top.
Apple, in addition to Salesforce.com, Anthem Inc and PayPal, were new entrants into the top 10. Etsy, JPMorgan Chase and Starbucks made the top 100 for the first time – in the survey’s fifth year.
“Americans want corporations to stop prioritizing shareholders and instead put workers, customers, communities, and the environment at the heart of just business practices,” said the press release accompanying the report.
“Business leaders, smart investors, and the American people have been telling JUST Capital for years,” it said, “that doing right by workers, paying fair wages, investing in communities, fostering environmental stewardship, looking after customers, creating great jobs, and making products that benefit society is not only right, it’s the best way to generate profit and serve shareholders”.
The study tracked and analysed 922 companies from the Russell 1000 across five stakeholder groups: workers, customers, communities, the environment and shareholders.
Important issues included payment of living wages, environmental protection, paid parental leave and hiring of veterans. It also looked at whether corporations pay their fair share of taxes, respect human rights standards, and communicate honestly in advertising – all the while generating returns for investors.
In August, 181 US chief executive officers in the Business Roundtable signed the Statement on the Purpose of a Corporation “rejecting shareholder primacy“, indicating that more and more firms are measuring success beyond the distribution of monetary dividends to those who hold company stock.