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People trust executives to intervene in social issues

Company decisions are rarely driven by a boss’s personal positions, says management scholar

IN AUGUST the Business Roundtable, an American corporate lobby group, updated its 2019 "Statement of the Purpose of a Corporation". It emphasised that shareholders, employees, customers, suppliers and communities depend on each other for success. Doing good is not antithetical to doing well. Yet certain Republican politicians attack executives who speak up on social issues-attempting to cancel voices they disagree with, even while lamenting "cancel culture"-and press state pension funds to retaliate against firms supporting goals pertaining to environmental, social and governance (ESG) aims.

I have thought about the role of businesses in society for almost five decades. In 1977 George Weyerhaeuser,...

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