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"Stakeholders." The s-word was inescapable at the 50th WEF, reflecting the rapid shift in thinking about the purpose of companies—and with new environmental, social, and governance metrics, companies can now meaningfully measure their impact.

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  • The business case for sustainability and responsibility has been, for the past few decades, the dominant basis on which to build arguments for socially responsible action. This did result in a notable improvement and increase in investments, however we also run the risk of justifying idleness where action

    The business case for sustainability and responsibility has been, for the past few decades, the dominant basis on which to build arguments for socially responsible action. This did result in a notable improvement and increase in investments, however we also run the risk of justifying idleness where action does not seem profitable. This is highlighted in instances where those responsible for decision-making have a short-term outlook, especially since many such initiatives offer long-term payoffs. Very recently, we have seen scientists urge leaders to push harder against climate change, yet the response remains weak.

    Linda Dickens, talking about the sub-topic of diversity management, offers an interesting idea that we may perhaps use as a lens through which to look at social responsibility in general. The idea is a ‘tripod’ of support, motivated by the business case for social responsibility, and guided and protected by legal and social regulation (under social regulation, interestingly, Dickens particularly mentions the power and benefits that unionisation or at least employee voice could bring). Perhaps what we can read about here, this recognition of stakeholders in an organisation that we may even consider a grey area between social and legal regulation, can be seen as a part of Dickens’s tripod. I find this comparison interesting because I think we will see a great deal more of such behaviour in the future.