A call to the stake…holders

Naturally, there is constant news chatter about what the political leaders of our world are doing, planning & saying today. ‘What will Trump do about Kim Jong-Un?’ ‘How does Teresa plan to navigate Brexit?’ These are important questions because these are powerful people. But where else should our questions be pointed?

The top 10 Fortune 500 companies in 2017 were Wal-Mart, State Grid, Sinopec Group, China National Petroleum, Toyota Motor, Volkswagen, Royal Dutch Shell, Berkshire Hathaway, Apple and Exxon Mobil (rather takes the pressure of picking the right startup name doesn’t it?). Together, these companies employ over 67 million people. 67 million. That’s more people than the entire population of the UK and, together, their sphere of influence extends far beyond that island-sized figure.

Each of these companies arguably has the power of a small government over people, property, resources and development, and they certainly have a role in setting political agendas (think American Coal Council). Then there’s money: The world’s 500 largest companies generated $27.7 trillion USD in revenues in 2016, meaning they together are controlling a sum one third greater than America’s GDP. (Who said money wasn’t power?) And that’s just the start, it’s estimated that there are 115 million companies in the world — that’s one for every 65 people on Earth.

The untouchable private sector.

Companies do bad things. Companies also do amazing things. No matter, my question is: Do we hold them accountable?

Company decisions can be really important:

  • In 1914 Henry Ford doubled his autoworkers wages, arguably spurring the motor revolution and helping to build what is today’s America.
  • In 1997, Apple brought back Steve Jobs as CEO and underwent massive restructuring. There are now 700 million iPhones worldwide.
  • In 2018, Amcor, Ecover, Evian, L’Oréal, Mars, M&S, PepsiCo, The Coca-Cola Company, Unilever, Walmart, and Werner & Mertz — together representing more than 6 million tonnes of plastic packaging per year — decided to aim for 100% reusable, recyclable or compostable packaging by 2025.

And innovation in the private sector is tremendously exciting (and more than a little scary):

So how about we start to pay more attention? Sure, you have to be a shareholder to vote (though as there are 45,000 publicly listed companies you may well be one and you might want to find out). But you only need to be a stakeholder to have the right to speak up. And if we are citizens; if we are society members; if we love others; if we care about the environment then we are all stakeholders. And we all have a voice. Let’s use it.

Thanks for making it this far. The startup I’ve co-founded, Hedge, is releasing a proactive stakeholder app which will send you snippets of personalised news we think might be worthy of your vote. To give our beta a try (and support us in doing so) go to www.hedgeapp.co.uk/beta.html and sign up for our ‘download’ email, or else hook up with our mailing list.