The World Economic Forum is a grand font of glib, feel-good slogans. 'Inclusivity', 'passion', 'cohesiveness' abound. Perhaps one of the most overused terms is 'stakeholder capitalism', a perennial catch-all for general corporate goodness. But what does it mean? A new report produced by the world's big four auditing firms in conjunction with the WEF is tentatively suggesting some specifics, and what it contains may require shareholders and executives to knock back a stiff shot of the hard stuff.
For employees, the news is good. In the words of the Financial Times, the workers of the world have been rebranded as "stakeholders". For managers, the world is about to become a much more complicated place, if such a thing is possible.
The era of "stakeholder capitalism" is upon us. The theme of the World Economic Forum's 50th annual meeting is "stakeholders for a cohesive and sustainable world". The idea is not new. The very first Davos Manifesto in 1973 included "A Code of Ethics for Business Leaders" which said, "the purpose of professional management is to serve clients, shareholders, workers and employees, as well as societies, and to harmonise the different interests of the stakeholders".
In 2001, the WEF's Board of...