Our society is in crisis: even before the Covid-19 pandemic, racism was already unleashed around the world, rising seas were already flooding communities, pollution was choking cities, the AI revolution was creating major dislocations as jobs are replaced with virtual robots, progress toward gender equality has been stagnating or reversing.
All the while, society is putting larger demands on companies to be at the forefront of creating solutions. Black Lives Matter protests are causing companies to rename brands and review their inclusion strategies; “clicktivists” are creating social media storms about company missteps; consumers are boycotting irresponsible firms; the famous “Millennial” workers walk away from companies that don’t behave responsibly. Even investors are demanding adherence to ESG (environmental, social and governance) standards.
As Larry Fink, CEO of Blackrock, wrote in a recent Letter to CEOs: “We … see many governments failing to prepare for the future, on issues ranging from retirement and infrastructure to automation and worker retraining. As a result, society increasingly is turning to the private sector and asking that companies respond to broader societal challenges. Indeed, the public expectations of your company have never been greater. Society is demanding that companies, both public and private, serve a social purpose.” According to the latest Edelman Trust Barometer, fully 92% of people think that CEOs speak out on these issues, but many think today’s leaders don’t do enough.