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It’s time for our economic system to acknowledge interdependence

Milton Friedman’s 1970 essay, “The Social Responsibility of Business Is to Increase Its Profits,” has just turned 50 and this is prompting a range of initiatives calling for a shift to “stakeholder capitalism” responsible to workers, communities, suppliers and the environment as well as to investors.

A year ago, 181 CEOs members of the Business Roundtable pledged themselves to the stakeholder approach instead of the “shareholder supremacy” preached by Friedman. “It is good that the business community has awaked,” economist Joseph Stiglitz recently said in The New York Times. “Now let’s see whether they practice what they preach.”

One of the advocacy initiatives recently launched is Imperative21, whose goal is to champion an “economic system that is designed for interdependence, invests for justice, and accounts for all stakeholders”, as B Lab’s Jay Coen Gilbert, one of initiators of Imperative21 recently wrote in the New York Times.

The stakeholder approach has long been part of the framework that onValues uses in advising its clients. After 30 years of sustainable investing experience, we have enough evidence that professionally managing and taking into account stakeholder concerns is key to the long-term success of both companies and investors.

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