Exploring How Profit & Purpose Can Best Co-Exist

Inaugural Council Meeting Agenda | Thursday, August 20, 2020

Exploring How Profit & Purpose Can Best Co-Exist

On August 19, 2019, the US-based Business Roundtable (BRT) issued a ground-breaking “Statement on the Purpose of a Corporation.” In the 300-word document, the primacy of generating profits for shareholders was called into question for the first time in nearly 50 years.

Times are changing. Social and environmental problems are intense and growing. Most employees are disengaged. Income disparity is at a historical high. Consumers are distrustful. Business – especially big business – is held in low regard, if not seen as a primary culprit for these and other ills. The BRT statement suggests that business leaders are taking note.

While there are cynics that suggest that global corporations are saying only what is required to appease the public and regulators, others suggest that we’ve entered a new era in corporate social engagement. To solve the many problems that increasingly plague our world, a growing majority believe that the private sector – not the government –must rise to the occasion both in the interest of self-preservation and in the name of socio-economic sustainability.

The advent of COVID-19 has perhaps, not surprisingly, accelerated the effort to redefine the role of the corporation in the 21st century.

Getting an accurate fix on evolving expectations for corporate stewardship is a big challenge, as the public sphere is both noisy and sensationalized. The situation is even more murky in Asia. Against this backdrop of increasing activism and hyperbole, what should CEOs and Boards extrapolate for Asia from US and European trend lines in corporate purpose?

This inaugural Council meeting will unpack the rising tide of “stakeholder” activism, the current and foreseeable flashpoints in stakeholder concers, and the relative preparedness of Asia-based leadership teams and Boards to anticipate, manage, and respond to these challenges.

Focal questions for the session will include:

  1. How can profit and purpose goals best co-exist? How can the inherent trade-offs be managed?
  2. What adaptations in emergent, global, corporate purpose trends need to be made for Asia?
  3. What is the optimal balance of C-Suite and Board ownership and responsibility in addressing these emerging issues?
  4. What are the planning and action priorities for the corporate purpose agenda for Asia in the near- and medium-term?

Members will share their perspectives, plans and initiatives to inform collective thinking and generate collective insights and get-rights.


8:15                   Hellos and Coffee

8:30                  Council Opening

David Hoffman will introduce the context and purpose of the Council, frame a set of key issues, outline envisioned long-term impacts, and discuss key elements for a Council Charter document. Objectives and outcomes for the meeting will be discussed and agreed with the group.

David Hoffman, Senior Vice President Asia, The Conference Board

Steve Stine, Council Program Director

8:45                  Current Corporate Purpose Realities – Overview & Round Robin

Steve Stine will present his initial findings from one-on-one discussions with Council Members leading up to the inaugural meeting, establishing for the group a set of criteria and year one objectives. Council members will then discuss areas of critical importance and explore the best way forward as a collective. Each Council member will then have the opportunity to:

  • Introduce themselves
  • Share their observations on shifting market and public stakeholder expectations with respect to the role of the Asia-based corporation in moving beyond profit and the primacy of shareholder return.
  • Outline what they see as the scope and goal of the corporation in Southeast Asia and the need and/or opportunity to lead change

10:00                 Setting the ACLC Research Agenda

Sunil Puri (Center for Creative Leadership) and Anurag Banerjee (Quilt.ai) will provide Members with an overview of the Year 1 research agenda.

The Asia Corporate Leadership Council (ACLC) is agenda driven and research led. It features a continuous primary research program designed to:

  • Illuminate key corporate purpose imperatives, issues, and challenges.
  • Identify tools and methods for, and pathways to, corporate purpose excellence.
  • Factually inform the public dialogue on the topic of corporate purpose. 10:50 11:00 11:30 Wrap up and snapshot of upcoming activities Meeting Formally Adjourned Members who would like to remain on the call for further informal conversation are invited to do so. End of Call

10:50                  Wrap up and snapshot of upcoming activities

11:00                   Meeting Formally Adjourned

11:30                   End of Call

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