For US companies, shareholders no longer have the highest priority. That is what business club Business Roundtable says on Monday. The emphasis will be more on employees, customers and the environment. A big step, or just a nice chat?
From place one to place five. Creating long-term value for shareholders will be lowered Monday in the US corporate priority list than care for customers and employees, good relationships with suppliers and community support.
"A good initiative," says Mijntje Lückerath, professor of Corporate Governance at TIAS Tilburg University, the decision of American CEOs. Lückerath is positive about the new approach, whereby 'shareholder first' thinking is replaced by an approach where stakeholders are central, called long-term value creation.
The application could lead to problems. "Over the longer term, striving for high returns for shareholders is still the best way to estimate how a company is performing. If you make a mess of everything you leave behind, you lose business at some point. That is ultimately bad for your shareholder return, "explains Lückerath.
See also: American companies: 'Let us no longer be led by shareholders'
"We have long been convinced that it is not about shareholders"
In the Netherlands we have been a bit further in this area than the Americans. "We have been thinking for some time that it's not just about shareholders," says Lückerath.
The change in the Netherlands came three years ago, in 2016, when the word "long-term shareholder return" (apologies for that word, ed.) Was deleted from the Dutch Corporate Governance Code and replaced by long-term value creation. Focused on all stakeholders.
"Among other things, the renewed code states responsibility far into the chain. You are really responsible for everything you do and do to others," says the professor.
"Young people don't want to work for a company that leaves a mess somewhere else"
It sounds good, shifting the attention from the highest possible profits for investors, to better care for employees, customers and the environment. Will this really be applied?
Lückerath thinks so, because it comes from the people in the absolute top positions, the CEOs. "They will have to live up to it, otherwise they will be judged", says the professor. If not, such a company loses its credibility.
In addition, a step like this is also supported in a wider sense than before, making it an easier step to take. "Society is ready, the younger generation no longer wants to work for a company that leaves a huge mess on the other side of the world," said Lückerath. "In addition, inclusiveness is greatly appreciated by customers and employees, if you do not go along with it, you as a company can fall behind."