Green is now looking to the future and to lessons learned. As he says: “The older, Friedmanite idea that the sole job of a business is to create profit for shareholders has proved insufficient to sustain value and – in the end – a bad deal for shareholders” *.
The key phrase is “to sustain value”. Most of the talk about sustainability these days is about the environment but there is an obvious crossover into the sustainability of a business. There is nothing starry-eyed about Green’s view. Yes, we need better regulation by the authorities, yes we need transparency and freedom from artificial distortions in the financial markets and in executive remuneration. Yes, “there is the basic responsibility to make as good a return as is sustainably possible on the capital entrusted to the company by the shareholders.” There is the word “sustainable” again! If Green is at odds with some of his fellow bankers it is not about profit, it is about the short-term profit motive which has lured endless numbers of players in every part of the financial markets to an untimely end.
Green is orthodox enough to be insistent on the ever present need to nourish and cultivate customers, and to “engage” employees, where there is another nice little touch – it is the company’s job to engage employees, not simply scour the streets for engaged-type people.
And there is one last sting in the tail. “The company has to ask – and give a satisfactory answer to – the question: how does the business we do contribute to the common good?”.
Companies need to “help employees understand how their roles make this contribution. And if that begs an uncomfortable question, then it is the corporate social responsibility of the company, at board level, to face up to that question.”
* see Stephen Green's recent book "Good Value: Choosing a Better Life in Business"