“Capitalism Reimagined” with South African Former Supreme Court Judge Mervyn King

 

The current model of capitalism does not work – or at least not for most people. Shareholder value is yesterday’s idea. We need to re-imagine capitalism, the role of business, and the conscience of Directors and the CEO. In this episode, we are honored to hear insights from former South Africa Supreme Court Judge Professor Mervyn King. Professor King shares his reimagined model of capitalism – trickle-down economics does not work. He envisions a new brand of capitalism with a new purpose for business: to create shared value for multiple stakeholders, serve society, and deliver sustainable impact. The good news is you, too, can boldly reimagine capitalism. Where do you choose to work? Where do you choose to shop? What kind of company do you choose to create? Join in and learn how to be part of this radical new thinking, bold new actions, and courageous change. 

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Capitalism Reimagined with Former Supreme Court Judge Mervyn King

In a World at War and on Fire

I’m joined by the remarkale human being, Professor Mervyn King, who has joined me from South Africa and has been an incredibly inspirational leader, mentor, and dear friend. It’s a great privilege to have you chat with us about some of the topics of passion that you’ve dedicated your life to in the world. Thank you so much for joining us. It’s so wonderful to see you.

My pleasure. Lovely to see you again.

Thank you. Share with us your most recent fantastic work in the world around corporate governance, leadership responsibility, and solid citizenship. Can you share with us, what that’s about, the work you’ve done, and the difference it’s made?

Towards the end of the 20th century, it was realized and empirically established that companies, in the main, and you and I as individuals to a much lesser extent, were using natural assets faster than nature was regenerating them. It’s clearly not a sustainable matter, nor are the dictates of the primacy of the shareholder as espoused by the economist Milton Friedman. Friedman said: the sole purpose of the company was to make a profit even though it was subsidized by society and the environment. We have had a century of unsustainable development.

In the first decade of the 21st century, the GRI was started in Boston, strangely enough, and moved to Amsterdam. (Editor’s note: The GRI Standards are a modular system of interconnected standards. They allow organizations to publicly report the impacts of their activities in a structured way that is transparent to stakeholders and other interested parties. The GRI Framework is an easy-to-use reporting guideline for ESG ie. Environmental Social Governance analysis. With GRI’s standardization and materiality principle, companies can gather and analyze data efficiently, allowing them to assess if their goals are aligned with company policies and investor expectations.) I became chair and I was also the Chair of the United Nations on Governance and Oversight. It was there that I got a deep understanding of the critical state that our planet was in and what would happen if we, as corporate leaders, didn’t change the way we led and steered our company. It comes from the Latin word ‘to steer.’ I became involved in setting standards for what were the impacts of a company’s activities and its product or service on the three critical dimensions for sustainable development, the economy, society, and the environment. That was the first decade of the 21st century.

 

LBF 12 | Capitalism Reimagined

 

In the second decade, we started appreciating as well that those three critical dimensions were having impacts on the limited liability companies around the world, which is the most critical citizen in both developed and developing countries because it is the medium by which businesses conducted, capital is raised, and jobs are created. It serves an excellent purpose for society.

We learned that the economy, for example, the collapse of Lehman Brothers, had a significant impact on companies. From a social point of view, the pandemic, or the Coronavirus, and health and safety had a massive impact on the company. Environmentally, I have to say climate change, you can see how the environment impacts a company.

Enterprise value creation thinking started several years ago. Now, I’ve been involved in the International Financial Reporting Standards, which is a global body that operates in 144 countries around the world, setting standards with rigor and consistency in financial reporting. They have agreed to expand their mandate to include the so-called non-financial aspects. They’re going to establish the Sustainability Standards Board, which will look at sustainability. It’s like a coin. It’s got two sides. The impacts the company has on those three dimensions.

The Sustainability Standards Board, we were looking at it through an enterprise value creation lens. I am involved in a new body called the Value Reporting Foundation, which will set standards, hopefully, the whole world because we need the end game. My vision is to have a comprehensive corporate reporting system that starts changing the behavior of corporate leaders.

Hopefully, we have a consistent one around the world. The fact that you and I can talk to each other is showing how connected the world is. We should have one standard of financial reporting and so-called non-financial reporting and then connect them with integrated reporting, which was something that I was fond of several years ago. That’s a long answer to your question, but I’m very involved in what’s happening globally.

That’s wonderful. Perhaps, if you could expand a little and share with the people how the definition has changed in terms of company value from the days when we would simply measure it as a net value on a balance sheet in terms of economic value to what is the current measurement and how should directors of companies be measuring value now?

You’re quite correct that the test for success was increased profit, increased share price, and increased dividends. Those were the three criteria. Never mind that it was being subsidized by society and the environment, and we had a century of unsustainable development. The measurement now is, “Is the company creating value for society?”

The question that should be asked is, “How has the company made its money?” If it’s made its money on the basis of an adverse impact on the environment, then looked at holistically, it’s probably reducing value for society. It’s an instrument created by society for society, this artificial incapacitated person of the company and its leaders are the conscience in mind of the company. We have to think differently about the primacy of the shareholder and profit at any cost in a resource-constrained world, and with climate change happening, as you and I are speaking, we have to think of success as adding value to society.

In that context, so much of the work you’ve done also addresses the issue of what is the role of a company director and what are the critical aspects of leadership. If we separate those two points, in your view, what are the duties of the director?

Directors individually and as a collective because when the board makes a decision, it’s a collective mind. As it’s duties of good faith, critical skill, and diligence to the company, this incapacitated artificial person is so critical to society and has no mind, no heart, no soul, and no conscience. I call it ‘the innocent company‘ because when something goes wrong, society turns against the company, but it should turn against its corporate leaders who have made negligence or for some reason, made a business judgment call that is adverse to the environment, for example.

The critical thing for leadership, first of all, is courage. You’ve got to have courage because, as a director, you’re putting your personal reputation and your personal estate on the line because you could be sued for making the wrong business judgment call hence the business judgment rule. You’ve got to cross what I call the intellectual rubicon. You’ve got to leave behind your present needs and past experiences and cross that rubicon to become the mind of this incapacitated person and only think of what’s in the best long-term interest of the health of the company.

If you get it right, it’s in the long-term best interest of all its stakeholders. The business round table in America a few years ago said, “Thinking only the primacy of the shareholder, we cannot carry on like that anymore. We have to take account of the interest of all stakeholders.” They never intended, in my judgment, to say, “Directors must make decisions in the best interest of stakeholders.” Hence the phrase “Stakeholder capitalism which I abhor,” because it seems to replace the era of corporate leaders focusing on one stakeholder to a shareholder to acting in the interest of all stakeholders.

 

 

If a director of a company lets the company meet the interests and expectations of all stakeholders, for example, increased wages for employees at 20% per year, the company will go bankrupt. There are tradeoffs between the stakeholders, but you need to learn and understand the needs, interests, expectations, and tribulations during the pandemic.

A year ago, I coined the word Coronanomics because I said, “Corporate leaders are sailing our companies through a sea of economic crisis and a viral crisis.” You can’t separate the two because, to try and contain the virus, we’ve had restrictions and lockdowns, which exacerbated weak economies at the time. Every economy was undoubtedly weak. The American economy was in some turmoil. It exacerbated the situation.

You’ve got to understand that you steer your companies for survival. It’s not short-term thinking, but you cannot discharge your duty and care and not think long-term and still plan when you move from survival mode to thrive mode. And we will in a couple of years’ time. Economies will turn. “You, I, the directors, and the corporate leaders have to get the company ready for that survival mode.” We have to have a mindset, which I’ve called collaborative under SDG 17 integrated thinking, the symphony of the resources used by a company that’s in a relationship with its stakeholders, a compromising collaboration. 

We have to compromise with our stakeholders who’ve gone through hardships, but the stakeholders like us have to realize the company has suffered hardships. There’s got to be this compromising mindset short-term to make sure the company survives because if it doesn’t, human capital will be dispersed and the infrastructure will be sold at knock-down prices in the present market conditions.

When we get to survival mode to try and recreate that company. It will be virtually impossible, but if you get it to survive and keep that human and intellectual capital together when you get back to survival mode, you can start building that up again. It’s interesting that you’ve got to think short-term, but you cannot stop planning long-term.

I wrote a book in 2016 together with Jill Atkins, who’s Professor of Accountancy at Sheffield University, called The Chief Value Officer. The International Federation of Accountants housed in America has said they agree with Professor King because what I said was, “To call the accountant, the chief financial officer becomes a misnomer because he or she doesn’t sit in the corner office in Boston drafting the financial statements of a company operating in Boston according to US GAAP (General Accepted Accounting Principles). He or she is looking at this whole value creation process which we set out in the IR (integrated reporting), the Integrated Reporting framework that specifies the inputs into a company.”

We say there are six resources. There are human, intellectual, financial, manufactured, social, and natural capital. These are things that every company uses. There’s a relationship between the company and stakeholders. One needs the symphony, and you need collaboration. What happened in 2020, the pandemic, drove a miraculous collaboration of scientists to develop a vaccine which usually took 5 to 7 to 8 years, and we did it in 9 months. That change of mindset to collaborate: America with the UK, the UK with Spain, or wherever it was, we collaborate. South Africa collaborating with Oxford and the AstraZeneca vaccine, for example.

There are six resources: human, intellectual, financial, manufactured, social, and natural capital. There's a relationship between the company and stakeholders. So you need the symphony collaboration. Share on X

This collaborative mindset has spread into the corporate world. Mr. Mandela certainly thought on a collaborative basis, if you remember, when South Africa won the Rugby World Cup, he made a point of putting on the jersey of the South African captain. That was an act of collaboration to show that we were a united family in South Africa. We’ve been developing since, unfortunately, not always too happy, but certainly, Mr. Mandela had this collaborative mindset and was very conscious of the unification of the very divided people.

You’ve had a couple of wonderful Mandela Moments. You were part of that group of twelve who had lunch with them shortly after he came out of prison. You got that famous phone call where he said, “Hello, is this my favorite judge?” I thought you could share with us those two moments. Perhaps take us through that lunch and how significant that was.

I was asked in 1992 by the Institute of Directors because of my experience as a corporate lawyer and had been a judge, and I resigned as a matter of conscience. It’s not relevant. Many of my clients asked me to go on their boards, and I ended up as chairman of companies listed in London, Europe, and South Africa. I had not only an academic knowledge of corporate law and accounting principles, but I’d done it. I practiced it. I’m covered in corporate scars as a result.

For all those reasons, they asked me if I would form a committee and write guidelines for the majority of my fellow citizens who had not been in the mainstream of the economy because of the apartheid legislation and were now coming in based on transformation and equality. They had nothing to guide them as to how to direct and manage. I said, “Let me think about it,” because I was very busy then. I was a chairman of some large companies.

I got a call from Mr. Mandela, who, as usual, called me in person. He started discussing with me the education system in South Africa. While he was on the phone, I said, “Mr. Mandela, while I have you on the phone, I have this new corporate governance approach. What do you think? Should I do it?” and he said, “Do it. You’re the right man. Make sure anybody who comes onto your committee does it in the best interests of South Africa Inc., and they don’t receive any payment. They will do it for nothing. They do it for the heart of South Africa.” That’s precisely what I did. I formed the committee. You can look at the four reports and who’s who of my committee. I’ve had the best of South Africa on my committees, and no one, including me, has ever charged a penny for what we’ve done. That was the inspiration of Mr. Mandela.

 

 

You also alluded to something quite important. When you resigned as a Judge of the Supreme Court under a former Prime Minister, Mr. PW Botha, it was an act of conscience. When we talk about some of the challenges in the world and issues of conscience, I’m curious to know what was that matter of conscience and what gave you the fortified courage to make that decision.

First, I called for a commission of inquiry into the conduct of some of my fellow brother judges. I asked it to be public. Unfortunately, to have it public over judges, you need both houses of parliament to agree. To this day, I’ve never forgiven Helen Suzman for agreeing that it should not be public and that it should be private and not disclosed.

In terms of that ruling, I cannot tell you the content of it. All I can tell you is that I wasn’t happy with the conduct of some of my fellow brother judges, and I didn’t want to sit on the bench with them. The inquiry was held, inevitable consequences followed, and it involved a question of ethics. It was something that was very uppermost in my mind. I applied that feeling of doing the right thing. It takes courage to stand up to something like that. With that courage on my sleeve, I went into a world where I wasn’t happy with how companies were being directed, so I started my governance world, and you know the rest of the story.

What did you draw on to help you make that tough decision? There must have been considerations of risks and losses.

What I drew on was what was the right thing to do. Could I continue sitting on the bench with a fellow judge whose allegations were made and not proven, but there were allegations made? All I wanted was for it to be inquired into and get it up in the open, whatever the consequences were. As I said, unfortunately, both houses of parliament agreed it should be private and never disclosed, but there were consequences.

I felt it was the right thing to do. I couldn’t bring myself to continue in that position. I then consequently applied that mindset to the positions I held as director and chairman of the many non-profit organizations and professor at the moment at the Wits Business School, so I’m applying my mandate, too. I’ve started the Chief Value Officer course at the School of Accountancy at Wits. It’s the first in the world, but a university in France and UK is following.

As I’ve said that it’s a misnomer to call an accountant a chief financial officer. He or she deals with this whole value creation process. I’ve seen, as an advisor in C-Suites, that the accountant is an actual change maker because he or she has this organizational ability, is a steward of business information, and has skills of public interest training so they can adapt to this change of mindset from profit at any cost to value creation as adding value society.

Going back to your courage again, you stand out as one of South Africa’s beacons of hope. In terms of making those tough decisions. What advice or takeaways would you give to other people sitting in corporate boardrooms, knowing there are ethics questions? What advice would you give them in terms of general takeaways about dealing with that decision and making that tough call?

When you die, you only have one asset: how you’ve lived your life and reputation. That’s it. Think about that when you’re making decisions or choices. It’s essential to do what is the right thing. Your stomach tells you sometimes, more than your mind, what is the right thing to do. Even though it’s not your interest or your family’s interest sometimes, you’ve got to do the right thing.

When you die, you only have one asset. That is how you've lived your life – your reputation. Share on X

Somehow people know what the right thing is, but they don’t do it because it does have consequences, which you make a choice. It takes courage to do the right thing. Whistleblowers sometimes can never find another job in society because companies think they’re troublemakers inside companies. I’m pressing globally for universal whistleblowing legislation where governments say whistleblowers are heroes or heroines of society. No legislation covering whistleblowing says people are encouraged to be whistleblowers.

We’ve also seen the research in America that there is an aversion to whistleblowers. To your point, it’s hard for them to get a position again. They’re almost viewed as traitors in a way. It raises an important question about leadership in boardrooms around the world. How do you think we move boardrooms, chairmen of boards, and stakeholders, particularly shareholders, who have a lot of influence to redefine how we measure, reward, and punish directors for their conduct? Whether rewarding good conduct and punishing wrongdoing?

The best driver of that is remuneration. We have a huge inequality gap in America, South Africa, and worldwide. The turn at the top and beat of the feet at the bottom. What do you do? The right thing to do is lower the executive’s salary and increase the worker’s wages, but from a bonus point of view, make it variable.

The right thing to do is lower the executive's salary and increase the worker's wages. Share on X

What does that mean? There are three factors. It’s the context in which companies operate. They operate in the context of the environment, economy, and society. “Mr. Chief Executive, you are budgeting to increase the company’s bottom line by 7% next year. If you exceed it, you’ll get 1/3 of your bonus. These were the adverse impacts on the environment in the last financial year. How are you going to eradicate or mediate those in the year ahead? Give me five targets, please.”

Gives you those five targets, and at the end of the year, you measure against those targets. If he hasn’t achieved that, he loses 1/3 of his bonus. If he’s achieved that, he gets another 1/3 of his bonus. The same thing you look at is the adverse impacts on society. Give 5 or 7 targets, and whatever it is, how you will eradicate or mediate that if you achieve that and his salary is $1.2 million a year, but he then earns $10 million. It’s very palatable to society because he’s added value to society by eradicating those adverse impacts.

Take a country like Ghana, for example. The USAID will arrive and may slip through a politician’s fingers. It may ruffle the X purpose of use and be used for the Y purpose, but if every company in Ghana acted on that basis, every executive was remunerated on that basis. You would be adding value to society of much greater reward and benefit to that society than mere handouts.

Related to that, we have seen many examples in South Africa and worldwide where chief executives may have acted improperly. There’s very often what we call the golden handshake (or parachute), where there’s a non-disclosure agreement, and they are paid multimillions, the company’s money. What is your view on that? In a way, this improper conduct is being rewarded. We can think of many examples of chief executives who’ve walked away with incredibly large settlements. What are your thoughts on that?

I understand a nondisclosure agreement where confidential information is given to you, and you’re asked, “Please sign that you will not disclose this because it’s very confidential, but we need your expertise on this issue.” You sign a non-disclosure agreement because you don’t want people to know you’ve rewarded an executive that’s committed the wrong. Still, it’s easier to settle than to face some investigation or a probe by the SEC or whatever it is. You settle with the executive, and he gets paid a sum of money.

There’s a non-disclosure agreement between the company and the executive. That, to me, is questionable because you’re saying, “We are not sure the whole stakeholder will accept it, so we say you can’t disclose what is happening.” Why can’t you disclose it? As I said, there are two sides to nondisclosure agreements.

What would you advise boards to break this cycle? I’ve seen this play out numerous times, having run one of the top executive search firms in South Africa. How do we break that cycle to bring back the principles of our revered constitution around transparency, honesty, and equity for all, and as you say, it’s the company’s money? What do we do? What are the three things boards could do differently?

A few years ago, I started the Good Governance Academy because I was traveling around the world as I used to. Now I Zoom around the world, lecturing, talking, and advising companies worldwide. I’ve lectured in Boston and worked with Boston College, Harvard, Oxford, and Monash in Australia and worldwide. I learned that not every university teaches, for example, accountancy on the same basis.

I mentioned Monash because I invited you to google “Monash University dating an accountant.” Professor McGuigan got six accountants, an attractive lecturer from the Arts Department, and an attractive lady lecturer from the Music Department to date an accountant, and he secretly filmed this dinner. You see a discussion on the topic, and he keeps returning to this tunnel discussion. Profess McGuigan edited these dinners and was fascinated to watch this video, so he changed the curriculum. He said, “AI will do the debits and credits. If you like, you’ll press a button and get a balance sheet every day.”

Accountants should become advisors, and I agreed with him because I wrote the book Chief Value Officer. You’ve got to apply your mind as an advisor. One of the critical subjects is philosophy because it makes you think literally and apply your mind to be a trustworthy advisor and a true change maker in the C-Suite to get companies thinking.

One of the critical subjects is philosophy because it makes you think literally and apply your mind to be a true advisor and change maker in the C-Suite to get companies thinking. Share on X

I also became Chairman of Conscious Companies. I launched the Conscious Company in South Africa and the Conscious Companies Awards. Is your company seem to be a responsible corporate citizen? Are you a responsible corporate citizen? Are you a conscious company? It’s going to depend on the consciousness of its corporate leaders.

I started the GGA (Global Governance Authority Founded in March 2022), and within a few years, I’ve great institutions around the world agreed. I have two colloquial’s where, for example, we are discussing enterprise value creation, preservation, and erosion. I have four international speakers whom I’ve got to speak on the subject. My chief executive and I do a summary of those four, and we send it to our support members, which includes the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants and the International Federation of Accountants in America. Our last one went to 4.5 million practicing accountants and directors in 69 countries.

What a wonderful initiative. What do you think Nelson Mandela would say to the business community? America had a lot of turmoil, and so do many countries around the world, but what do you think he would say to American and corporate leaders generally?

He would say, “Let’s go back in time to the middle of the 19th century when in the UK and in Boston, strangely enough, there were thoughts of wealthy families who didn’t want to give risk capital anymore to unlimited liability entities,” because when they went bankrupt, they were still liable to the creditors and the employees. They said, “Why don’t we create a statutory person with limited liability?” “You’ll get a share of the company’s business, equity capital role, and risk capital. That’s the end of your duty and responsibility to the company.” “Mr. Shareholder, you have no further duty and responsibility.”

In consequence, when the company goes bankrupt, or something goes wrong, you’re going to be at the back of the line before all the creditors and everybody, that’s the concomitant for the protection of limited liability. It became the springboard for the creation of jobs and the raising of capital. The company became very important, but the purpose of the company was to serve society. It wasn’t to enrich shareholders.

The theory was to increase wealth at the top and trickle down to the impoverished at the bottom. The tricks I’ve said many times worldwide became a trickle and stuck at the top. It never came down to the bottom. When I talked to Mr. Mandela, he said, “Tell companies to go back to their purpose for why they were founded.”

In the United Kingdom, theologians opposed the creation of an artificial person. Lord Thurlow, the great theologian of the day, said, “Who are we, as mankind, to create a person? Only the Almighty God can create a person. We’re creating a person with no conscience and no body to be kicked and no mind to be damned.” It was mankind in those days, not humankind. He was right. We lost sight of that. This artificial person was created by society for society. It was used as an instrument to create wealth for specific individuals.

That’s such an important point when we think of how our beloved Madiba, as we call him, served with the purpose of transforming a system of apartheid into a world-respected modern democracy. what do corporate leaders need to do to arm themselves with that purpose-driven life?

Chad Holliday was the Chairman of the Bank of America, and Shell and I had a fireside chat a few months ago. The question of transitioning Shell from a fossil fuel company to a renewable energy company. One cannot do it overnight. You cannot turn the taps off of the world rigs, for example, because Shell, BP, and all those companies are significant holdings in your pension fund and pension funds around the world.

If you closed it now, you’d have a massive hole in your pension fund and wouldn’t get the dividends. Your pension fund would reduce by millions, and your earnings in your pension fund would decrease. If you had already retired, the retirement value you’d get out of your pension fund would be diluted and decreased.

One has to accept that you’ve got to transition these things, considering the stakeholders’ interests. You’ve got to realize their tradeoffs. Such as in Europe, their directives about 2035 can’t have plants and machinery driven by fossil fuel. You’ve got to be driven by renewables. Some companies have decided not to pay dividends for the next few years. Not to affect the company’s debt-equity ratio and not to have the extra cash to move fossil fuels to renewables, one would think the share price would go down.

It has gone up.

BlackRock has said, “Yes, aboard,” that’s applied as a collective mind to the company’s long-term health or longevity. I can invest in this company to benefit my beneficiaries, some of whom have got to pay in 30 years.

You make an important point about having an impact investment community supporting those values. They are an essential participant in this as well. In our final minutes, we know how much Mandela loved the youth and children and how much he missed the youth while he was in prison. What do you think (briefly) he would say to the rising young stars in the world now, the young leaders?

 

LBF 12 | Capitalism Reimagined

 

He would say to them, and I would hope what I’m saying, “You’ve got to be conscious leaders. If you’ve got to be a corporate leader, you’ve got to be a conscious corporate leader. You’ve got to know you’re acting for an incapacitated person.” I’m always fascinated by Mr. Skilling (former Enron CEO), for example, in that famous case of Enron. Would he have done what he did as a guardian of a five-year-old incapacitated child?

 

LBF 12 | Capitalism Reimagined

 

He was a great churchgoer and everything. He would never have done what he did to the company. Yet, this company is more critical to society than that five-year-old child because it’s the most important citizen in the United States of America. You need to deal with it based on conscience to ensure that that company adds value to society and is subsidized by society and the environment. I’m afraid that’s what we’ve done, and constantly, our planet is in crisis.

It is. To the point around the youth, it’s how we inspire and educate our youth and inculcate those values.

My GGA aims to educate educators to ensure they teach young people all this thought leadership that’s coming up from around the world, which I’m cornered, and I’ve put into this Good Governance Academy.

That’s wonderful. We could carry on chatting for ages. I’d love to talk to you about that some other time because we share a common impression and perspective. Before we close off, any final thoughts about leadership in the world in the 21st century and any lessons from South Africa’s iconic Nelson Mandela?

An important lesson is to know the difference between intellectual honesty and honesty. It’s very clear that with plain dishonesty, if you and I were directors of a company, we wouldn’t steal a company’s motor car and give it to our children. And yet, from an intellectually dishonest point of view, we will change the detail of a transaction to benefit our cousins, for example.

Intellectual honesty means you must leave aside your past experience and personal needs. You’ve got to forget who nominated you. You’ve got to forget that because the most important company in America might nominate you, and suddenly your first board meeting, you are called upon to make a decision that could be adverse to the interest of your nominator. You’ve got to have the courage. The courage comes in, but that intellectual honesty, “I am acting for an incapacitated artificial person. I am this company’s mind, soul, heart, and conscience. What is the right answer for the long-term health of this incapacitated person?” That’s it.

 

 

You’ve always been an incredible inspiration, not only to me but to millions worldwide. Thank you for your heart, soul, conscience, courage, and sharp mind. Thank you so much for being with us.

I look forward to reconnecting with you soon. Bless you.

Thank you, Anne.

Our conversation with Former Supreme Court Judge Mervyn King reveals radical new thinking and a new brand of capitalism. A confirmation that trickle-down economics does not work. Profits like treacle stick at the top. There is a new purpose for business. It’s no longer simply returns to wealthy shareholders but instead to create shared value for multiple stakeholders and to serve society.

While fossil fuel companies cannot transition overnight, those in Europe with directives to transition to renewable energy by 2035, who have paused their dividend payout to pay for this transition, have seen their share price rise, not fall. There is a new role for the chief financial officer. It’s no longer the chief number cruncher who counts the money. Instead, we have a chief value officer who can help focus the organization, create shared value, and deliver sustainable impact. A philosophical advisor who measures not only profit or a single bottom line but instead measures a triple bottom line of a company’s performance and impact on profit, people, and the planet.

We have a new brand of company directors to replace the corrupt corporate symbols of shame. People who understand that they are the heart, the mind, the soul, and the conscience of a company. The good news is you, too, can boldly reimagine capitalism. Where do you choose to work? Where do you choose to shop? What kind of company do you choose to create?

Until next time, remember leading boldy is about making thoughtful, clear choices. Bold leadership is about taking bold action, just one small step at a time. One step for you, but together, one giant step for humanity. Sign up, share with your friends, and join this Global Mandela Leadership Movement for Change. The world needs you to lead boldly too. Take care, and take thoughtful, bold action.

 

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About Professor Mervyn King

LBF 12 | Capitalism Reimagined

Mervyn King is a Senior Counsel and former Judge of the Supreme Court of South Africa. He is Professor Extraordinaire at the University of South Africa on Corporate Citizenship, an Honorary Professor at the Universities of Pretoria and Cape Town, and a Visiting Professor at Rhodes.

Mervyn King is currently a professor at the Wits Business School at the University of the Witwatersrand. He has an honorary Doctorate of Law degree from the Universities of the Witwatersrand in South Africa and Leeds in the UK, an honorary Doctorate from Deakin University, Melbourne, Australia, and an honorary Doctorate in Commerce from Stellenbosch University in South Africa, is Chair Emeritus of the King Committee on Corporate Governance in South Africa, which produced King I, II, III and IV, and Chair of the Good Law Foundation.

He is Chair Emeritus of the International Integrated Reporting Council (IIRC) in London and of the Global Reporting Initiative in Amsterdam, and a member of the Private Sector Advisory Group to the World Bank on Corporate Governance. He chaired the United Nations Committee of Eminent persons on Governance and Oversight. He was President of the Advertising Standards Authority for 15 years and a member of the ICC Court of Arbitration in Paris for seven years.

 

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