This article appeared in the August 23, 2019 edition of the Monitor Daily.

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Where purpose meets profit

Adam Hunger/AP
As chair of the Business Roundtable, Jamie Dimon was one of 181 CEOs to sign a statement to redefine the group's view toward a less profit-centered sense of corporations' purpose. Mr. Dimon, the CEO of JPMorgan Chase, is shown here at a New York event in June 2019.

Welcome to your Monitor Daily. Today's stories include the seemingly impossible wonders of the ocean deep, a fracturing of alliances in the Middle East, the limits of ingenuity for an industry struggling under tariffs, the importance of perseverance when combating such persistent challenges as homelessness, and the power of music to make immigrants feel at home.

But first: This week the power of business executives ​– and the question of their obligations to society ​– surfaced for some well-earned discussion.

David Koch, who died Friday, symbolized that power and its role in U.S. politics. He’s been lauded by some for his proud bankrolling of a libertarian economic agenda. In the process, Mr. Koch and his brother also stirred deep controversy over the rise of money in politics ​– fodder for a new book as well as Monitor news coverage. Those questions will persist.

But earlier this week, the role of business leaders came into focus on another front: The question of how they influence the economy and all its participants, day in and day out. 

The Business Roundtable, a group representing leaders of many of America’s biggest corporations, issued a statement signed by 181 CEOs seeking to reframe the idea of corporate purpose.

While lauding the free-market system as the best way to generate jobs and “opportunity for all,” the CEOs acknowledged that “many Americans are struggling.” And they pivoted away from a profits-as-purpose view toward what’s known as a stakeholder model of corporate obligation. Those stakeholders include employees, communities, suppliers, and customers, not just shareholders.

Don’t expect an overnight change or the disappearance of fiduciary duties to shareholders from corporate mindsets. Critics are fair to say what counts will be action, not just words. But the statement points to a shift in corporate boardrooms that some leadership experts say is promising.

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This article appeared in the August 23, 2019 edition of the Monitor Daily.

Read 08/23 edition