Three years ago today, the CEOs of almost 200 of America’s leading companies released a new statement on corporate purpose. The statement, which continues to reflect the view of Business Roundtable CEOs and guide the work of Business Roundtable, contains three elements:
First, it reiterates the CEOs’ strong belief in American capitalism as the best economic system for our economy and society. At a time when some policymakers are promoting an ever-expanding government role in business decision-making, our CEOs continue to believe that an economy driven by the private sector is far more likely to succeed.
Second, the statement describes the contributions Business Roundtable companies make every day in America by providing goods and services, creating jobs and fostering innovation. Business Roundtable companies employ over 20 million workers and are leading efforts to develop new technologies in transportation, energy, defense and health care, ensuring that the U.S. maintains its leadership role in innovation and technology. Roundtable companies spend and invest over $7 trillion a year, helping sustain and grow thousands of American communities and small- and medium-sized businesses. Business Roundtable member companies on average partner with nearly 800 small businesses and in 2021 collectively spent over $100 billion with their small business suppliers.
Finally and significantly, the statement outlines our CEOs’ philosophy on how to run their companies. In 1997, Business Roundtable developed principles of corporate governance that said CEOs should run their companies with only their shareholders’ interests in mind. When the Roundtable began debating an update to the 1997 statement, CEOs indicated that the statement did not fully encompass their view on the best way to run a company. They said that well-run companies work every day to keep the trust and loyalty of their customers, to invest in their employees, to build strong relationships with suppliers, to support the communities in which they do business, and to return value to their shareholders. Each Business Roundtable CEO has a different set of challenges and approaches; but all of the signers of the statement believe that for their enterprises to succeed, they need to stay committed to their customers, workers, suppliers and communities—and, in so doing, promote the long-term interests of their shareholders.
Our companies are following through on their commitment to stakeholders with, among other things, investments in worker training, apprenticeships, community development and technical assistance to small businesses. Earlier this year, Business Roundtable launched a new Corporate Initiatives group to help our companies collaborate on actions, particularly around investments in America’s workforce.
Underpinning the statement is a conviction that the long-term interests of all of a company’s stakeholders are inseparable. 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.