One year ago today, the public conversation on capitalism turned a big corner. Some 181 CEOS — including JP Morgan’s Jamie Dimon, Apple’s Tim Cook, and Walmart’s Doug McMillon — declared “stakeholder capitalism” the definitive economic model. The leaders wrote that their companies exist to “benefit all stakeholders – customers, employees, suppliers, communities and shareholders.”
The CEO members who co-signed the letter are part of the Business Roundtable, an association used to discuss and advocate for policies they believe will benefit American business. It was the group’s first statement of purpose to reject “shareholder primacy,” an economic theory that’s been popular since the 1970s that states a company’s sole purpose is to benefit its shareholders.
But does the public feel companies are following through on their renewed sense of purpose? The Harris Poll and Just Capital, an independent research firm founded by the billionaire investor Paul Tudor Jones, polled 2,000 Americans in July to find out.
Some 90% of Americans agree that it’s important for large companies to promote an economy that serves all Americans, and 58% said that large companies are doing well on following through with their promises. That’s an increase of 13 percentage points from their evaluation of companies in 2019.
Apple’s Tim Cook was one of the 180 CEOs to sign a letter last year championing stakeholder capitalism. JUST Capital
However, Americans think large corporations can do more to help protect the environment and promote worker rights.
Some 37% said companies have a negative impact on the environment, and only 47% of those polled believe companies have a positive impact on the financial well-being of workers. JUST Capital calls this “a significant gap” between what companies believe they’re doing, and how they’re being perceived.
JUST Capital CEO Martin Whittaker told Business Insider it’s no surprise many people are looking for companies to do more.
“The uncomfortable truth is that millions of hard-working Americans – including many at large, profitable, publicly-traded companies – are still struggling to make ends meet, put food on the table, and get a fair shake. Investing in workers is one of the best things a stakeholder-driven business can do. Everyone wins,” he said.
The research firm said it will be surveying companies on how they aim close this perception gap.