Stakeholder capitalism was all the rage at this year's World Economic Forum at Davos, with the CEOs of major multinationals debating the details and profiling their initiatives on platforms of all sorts. For the WEF, it was a refresh of its founding principle of 50 years ago that businesses should serve society, not just shareholders. A new "Davos Manifesto" expands that to a "better kind of capitalism" in which companies recognise they can thrive over the longer term only if they help to overcome income inequality, societal division and the climate crisis, rather than focusing just on shorter-term profits.

It comes after leading US CEOs in the CEO Roundtable issued a landmark statement moving away from the principle that shareholders' interests are primary to a broader notion of the company as serving all its stakeholders. It comes also at a time when investors are starting to ask companies about their ESG (environment, social and governance) performance, not just their profi...

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