Three years ago, a nonprofit group of CEOs, the Business Roundtable, changed its mission statement to reflect that a corporation’s “principal purpose” should benefit not only shareholders but also other stakeholders such as customers, employees and the communities they serve.
But have their promises held up? An analysis from JUST Capital, a nonprofit focused on corporate social responsibility and employee experience, says mostly yes. But the individuals surveyed still perceive corporation performance as lackluster regarding work-life balance for employees and “positive impact on society overall,” JUST Capital said.
The updated mission statement highlighted the importance of worker investment, which it said 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.” The goal was to “foster diversity and inclusion, dignity and respect.”
While doubt lingers among the public, JUST Capital said stakeholder performance by BRT members has trended upward in the last three years. According to the report, this trend indicates that companies that have made public commitments “to serving all stakeholders” seem to be following through, more so than peer companies that aren’t a part of the roundtable.
Since the new statement was signed, BRT companies have garnered strong representation in the JUST 100, JUST Capital said. The JUST 100 reflects the performance of publicly traded companies in areas including company engagement, environmental impact and worker investment, among others. In 2020, 49% of BRT signatories were represented; that rate jumped to 62% in 2021 and 63% in 2022.
Members of the roundtable also scored higher than their Russell 1000 peers in “every [JUST 100] stakeholder group,” JUST Capital said. BRT companies trended toward the top 32% of scores across these stakeholders, while non-BRT companies trended toward the bottom 46%.
JUST Capital’s annual survey additionally captured a significant shift in public perception of a corporation’s top priority. According to JUST Capital, 31% of this year’s respondents said employees are corporate America’s top priority, compared to only 9% saying the same six years ago.
While less than a third of respondents said they believe employers have a positive impact on the lowest-paid workers’ financial well-being, according to JUST Capital analysis, the majority of respondents noted corporate America’s positive impact on the health and safety of workers as well as the quality of jobs available in the U.S.
“Underpinning the statement is a conviction that the long-term interests of all of a company’s stakeholders are inseparable,” BRT said in a statement released Aug. 19. “Over the long term, none of the stakeholders — customers, employees, suppliers, communities or shareholders — can flourish unless all do. The work is ongoing, and Business Roundtable CEOs will continue to lead the way.”