Steelcase Inc. President and CEO James Keane was among the 181 chief executives in the U.S. that signed the Business Roundtable’s “Statement on the Purpose of a Corporation.” He offered his perspective on the document in emailed responses to MiBiz.
What are the CEOs saying with this new statement?
We’re affirming business should lead the way in doing good in the world. We believe all people deserve to experience meaningful work and realize their full potential and think business can play an important role in that.
How does the statement affect your decision making?
Our purpose to unlock human promise has been core to who we are since we were founded, so we’ve always been intentional about our environmental and sustainability practices, choosing our suppliers, treating our employees well and elevating the needs of our customers. More than a change in practice for us, this statement is an affirmation of what we’ve been doing and what we will continue to do.
What should people make of it?
We want people to know companies understand and share their desire to expand the focus of corporations beyond any one single group. Most people, no matter what their job is or where they live, believe human ingenuity, creativity and innovation can make life better for people around the world. We think businesses play an important role in providing new economic opportunities for more people, as well as helping to bring innovative ideas to market.
How does this idea square with companies’ fiduciary responsibilities to shareholders?
We know the best companies often perform the best, too, so we see this commitment to our various stakeholders as an important driver of long-term value that fully squares with our commitment to shareholders. Fiduciary responsibility doesn’t have to be an ‘either – or.’ It can be a ‘yes – and.’
Will it affect the way you do business?
Steelcase has always been committed to unlocking human promise. For example, we use innovation and design thinking as a lens to embrace a broader sense of sustainability for our communities by focusing on things like education and equity. Throughout our history, Steelcase has taken steps to transform work, workers and workplaces in new and meaningful ways. This document is just a more public way of saying we’ll continue to look for ways to make lasting, positive impact.