The world's largest corporations aren't generally known for giving back to others or earning the public's trust. But according to some global leaders at at this week's World Economic Forum annual meeting in Davos, social responsibility must become a priority for businesses in the future.
At a panel discussion on Wednesday, "Doing Business the Right Way," five industry leaders addressed the lack of public confidence in businesses today and how it might be remedied. The panelists were Indra Nooyi, CEO of PepsiCo; Richard Goyder, CEO of Australian retail giant Wesfarmers; Dennis Nally, chairman of PricewaterhouseCoopers; Feike Sijbesma, CEO of the Dutch life sciences company DSM; and Aron Cramer, president and CEO of Business for Social Responsibility, a non-profit that promotes social responsibility in the business world.
Trust in business is at an all-time low globally, according to Fox Business anchor Maria Bartiromo, the panel's moderator. As she put it, "This is a global issue. We've seen this lack of trust around the world in terms of demonstrations and upset."
Regaining this trust is a matter of public responsibility, argued Sijbesma, whose company is the world's largest maker of nutritional supplements. The role of businesses in society has changed dramatically -- where business used to focus on profit, economic impact and creating jobs, in our hyper-connected and hyper-transparent world, companies now have an increasingly public responsibility, he explained.
“The role of business in society has been changed," Sijbesma said. "The boundaries between what is public interest and what is private interest have been blurred. Companies have a public responsibility... taking care of the environment, taking care of the social issues in the world.”
Making a profit simply isn't enough -- businesses also have a responsibility to support global sustainability, according to Sjibesma.
“Is economic growth in itself a goal, or is it the means to something else -- having a better life for 7, 8 or 9 billion people?” Sjibesma asked.
Watch the full video above, and for more from Davos, head over to weforum.org.
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