Blowback to the Business Roundtable’s declaration that companies should focus on more than shareholder value was inevitable, but the sharpest critique may be that the 181 titans of commerce who signed the document were simply late to the party.
B Lab bought a full-page ad in the Sunday New York Times basically saying "been there, done that." The ad called on roundtable members to operate like Amalgamated Bank, Patagonia, Ben & Jerry’s, Kickstarter and other B corporations that are bound to consider the interests of workers, customers, suppliers, the environment and communities. B Lab is an organization that certifies organizations as B corporations after they hit benchmarks.
The ad echoes the sentiments of founders of the B corporation movement, Jay Coen Gilbert, Andrew Kassoy and Bart Houlahan, who posted an op-ed in Fast Company that was skeptical of the Business Roundtable’s pronouncement.
The trio wrote that Roundtable members would do well to make themselves "legally accountable to create value for their workers, customers, suppliers, and communities—not just talk about it."
That could be easier said than done. Becoming a B corporation or adopting a similar certification of social good can be a confusing and sometimes difficult process even for new and small businesses, as Fast Company pointed out two years ago.