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Mercredi 3 Juin 2015

FY360° | Business and society in the coming decades


In the long term, corporate and societal interests converge. Walmart CEO Doug McMillon and SVP of sustainability Kathleen McLaughlin argue companies have an opportunity to use their scale and expertise to reshape global systems and mitigate complex problems.



Business exists to serve society.

Over the past several decades, one of the great discussions within capitalism has centered on defining exactly what a business is and what its obligations are to society at large and to the many stakeholders participating in business systems, including customers, shareholders, employees, suppliers, and communities, to name a few.

The obligations to society have been defined in different ways at different points. For many retailers, including Walmart founder Sam Walton, the focus has been first and foremost on serving the customer. For others over the past couple of decades, the focus was myopically on the shareholder. With the advent of shared-value, double-bottom-line, triple-bottom-line, and related movements, we have seen a broadening of the discussion to recognize the importance of multiple stakeholders and the need to promote social, environmental, and financial value.

Long-term capitalism goes one step further, asking companies to actively reshape the systems in which they operate. Those systems could include the complex of logistical and shipping services that move goods around the globe, the web of overseas contract manufacturers on which companies rely, or the array of energy suppliers that fuel worldwide operations. Long-term capitalism takes a deeper view of business’s role in society, recognizing that, in the long run, the interests of stakeholders converge with the interests of the broader community. The actions of any one company may reverberate throughout the various systems in which it operates, generating second- and third-order benefits as well as negative externalities. Under long-term capitalism, companies recognize that fact and, through concerted action with others of sufficient scale, work to ensure constant improvements to those systems...

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