With signs that the coronavirus outbreak may be slowing in the U.S., state and federal leaders – along with members of America’s C-suite – are beginning to cautiously discuss how we might reopen the nation’s economy. And in a bid to do so in a way that embraces their core principles, the CEOs of the Business Roundtable yesterday sent a letter to the White House outlining essential guidelines to restarting an economy that protects workers, customers, and communities, and which is more aligned with stakeholder capitalism than ever before.
181 Business Roundtable CEOs made headlines late last year with their new statement of corporate purpose that companies must promote an economy that serves all Americans, not just shareholders. Many scored well overall in our 2020 Rankings. And while some signatories came under fire earlier this week for how they’re responding to the COVID-19 crisis, they’re nevertheless striving to guide change across corporate America with this most recent missive.
In their letter, they ask the federal government to approach an economic restart with key principles and areas of focus front of mind, including:
- A commitment to safety above all – including PPE, cleaning procedures, testing and diagnostics, and virus monitoring in the workplace;
- Coordinated efforts across all businesses, supported by federal and state guidelines;
- Investment in critical resources, including testing supplies and vaccines; and
- Prioritization of key community resources – including safe schools, childcare, and healthcare services.
At JUST Capital, we’re also focused on how companies are doing on these issues, and are currently tracking responses to COVID-19 made by 100 of America’s largest companies (41 of which are led by BRT CEOs). Regardless of what government action looks like, companies will need to reevaluate how they are supporting their workers, customers, and communities in the long term. Here’s what companies are doing now, during this widespread shutdown:
- 64% have announced customer accommodations;
- 19% have announced backup dependent care; and
- 36% have announced paid sick leave.
- 55% have announced work from home policies
The key question now is how businesses will continue to support their workers and customers after restrictions are lifted. With the risk of contracting COVID-19 to continue for months, will companies retain and expand their paid sick leave policies? Similarly, with schools across the country likely to remain closed through the end of the year, will more companies implement dependent care benefits or work from home policies to accommodate workers with young children?
With Business Roundtable CEOs continuing to push for a more just, equitable economy overall, we hope to see both government and fellow business leaders embrace these principles moving forward, as they evolve. At JUST, we will continue to track how companies are doing today – with shutdowns still in place across the country – and once restrictions begin to ease. The decisions that emerge in the coming weeks could shape whether we return to a system of shareholder primacy or truly embrace stakeholder capitalism as the “new normal” for corporate America.