INTRODUCING: The 10 people transforming how we think about capitalism

Business Insider

Due to a confluence of forces – the legacy of the financial crisis, millennials taking over the workforce, and an increasingly polarised society – there is a widespread and urgent call to reexamine capitalism as it is practiced today.

We picked 10 leaders who are fighting for ways to improve the economy, finance, and the workplace for the benefit of all Americans, and whose ideas will inevitably have implications beyond the United States. It’s a disparate group with different world views, but they’re all driven by a desire to reform our system into what we call “better capitalism.”

Read on to see the full list of 10 people transforming how we think about capitalism.

Tarana Burke, the founder of the Me Too Movement, has inspired workplaces across America to improve their culture and operations

Valerie Macon:AFP:Getty Images

Tarana Burke is the activist who coined the term “me too” in 2006 as an empowering response to sexual harassment and assault, and she’s recently established the Me Too Movement as a nonprofit that can carry on her work.

She wants it made clear that this mission is not tied to the social media trend that resulted in the ouster of prominent executives and media personalities, starting with Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein in 2017.

“I think right now one of the most important things is that people need to understand that the Me Too Movement is not about naming and shaming,” Burke told Business Insider. “We should be thinking about how we shift culture, how we change systems, and shift to things that will prevent sexual violence from happening.” She wants to see more of a focus on victims, rather than perpetrators, as well.

#MeToo is also about ensuring a comfortable environment for all employees in the workplace, free from harassment. Burke said that conversations around changing culture can be uncomfortable, but shouldn’t make workplaces more tense – that’s not the point. The way to do that, she said, is to ensure that discussions around what’s appropriate in the workplace “aren’t closed-door conversations.” She adds: “They have to be very open and transparent.”

Larry Fink, the CEO of BlackRock, is demanding that CEOs create long-term value led by purpose

Mat Szwajkos/Getty Images

Larry Fink‘s words matter.

The CEO of BlackRock– the world’s largest asset manager, with $US6.4 trillion in assets under management – caused a stir when his 2018 annual letter to top execs said, “To prosper over time, every company must not only deliver financial performance, but also show how it makes a positive contribution to society.” He followed that by announcing BlackRock would only do business with such companies. This year’s letter doubled down on that promise.

He wrote to CEOs: “The world depends on you to embrace and advocate for a long-term approach in business. At a time of great political and economic disruption, your leadership is indispensable.”

There’s a movement now that believes it’s time to find alternatives to the short-termism that’s reigned for decades, and Fink is not just its biggest advocate – he’s become one of the leading voices for what those alternatives could look like.

Diane Gherson, a senior vice president of human resources at IBM, is addressing the ‘skills gap’

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As automation replaces millions of jobs, we’ll need a thorough rethinking of career education and skills training. IBM’s head of HR, Diane Gherson, is providing a model for what’s possible.

Since taking the role in 2013, Gherson has overseen IBM’s own transformation, using the very technology that will replace jobs to help employees within the company.

For example, the AI-powered Blue Matching program uses predictive analytics to determine opportunities for growth, and the CogniPay system uses AI to provide salary recommendations to managers.

The shift to a skills-based company, rather than one based solely on résumés and head count, allows for a larger talent pool. If a role is eliminated, those employees don’t necessarily need to be laid off. Plus, not all job applicants need four-year degrees.

“What are we going to do? Leave all these people behind?” she told Business Insider. “That’s our talent base. So we’ve got to find ways of making them ready for the workforce, and the fact that they don’t have a degree is not the end of the world, but they do need to get on a path to getting good jobs.”

Jay Coen Gilbert, a cofounder of B Lab, is looking to move the world beyond shareholder primacy

Courtesy of B Lab

In late 2001, Jay Coen Gilbert had an emotionally trying series of weeks, including his sister surviving the 9/11 attacks. The experiences made him realise he wanted to do something more than just build companies.

After selling an apparel company that he helped build, Coen Gilbert set to work starting B Lab in 2005 as a way to counteract what he saw as the toxic effects of shareholder primacy. B Lab is a nonprofit that awards B Corp status to for-profit companies. He and his team’s efforts have led more than 30 American states and two additional countries to pass laws allowing companies to register as “benefit corporations,” instilling stakeholder values into their charters.

Coen Gilbert wants to see more large public companies making these commitments. There are now 2,800 B Corps and 8,000 benefit corporations.

“We can’t create an economy that works for everyone if the biggest companies in the economy are moving in a different direction,” he told us. “That doesn’t work.”

Sarita Gupta, a co-executive director of Jobs with Justice, is ensuring that ‘the future of workers’ isn’t lost in the ‘future of work’

Jobs With Justice

We are constantly talking about “the future of work,” but Sarita Gupta is making sure “the future of workers” isn’t lost in that discussion.

As the longtime director of the union-rights group Jobs with Justice, Gupta has used her network to successfully push for minimum wage and overtime protections for 2 million home-care workers, getting San Francisco to pass a retail workers’ bill of rights, and raising the minimum wage in New York and Massachusetts.

Gupta is now most focused on finding ways to empower employees to bargain with those actually in charge of their jobs, especially if they’re subcontractors. This is an extension of her future-of-workers lens. She wants us to realise we are in charge of how this “fourth industrial revolution” plays out.

“We shouldn’t have inevitability built in,” she told us. “We should actually be in an active inquiry together across stakeholders, thinking how to ensure that shifts happening in our economy also ensure that result in working people being able to have dignity in their work, in addition to being able to live dignified lives.”

Nick Hanauer, the founder and CEO of Civic Ventures, has helped push minimum-wage increases across the US

John Vicory

Nick Hanauer is a wealthy investor who thinks capitalism is the best tool we have for increasing prosperity.

“But it is completely dishonest to hold that view – as all of my capitalist friends do – and also believe that the whole system will come tumbling down if we capitalists are required to pay our people enough to live dignified lives without relying on food stamps and the EITC [earned income tax credit],” he told Business Insider.

“In my opinion, any company or industry that cannot meet that standard is parasitic and illegitimate – or the leaders are incompetent and should find other lines of work.”

Hanauer made his fortune from investing in Amazon early and selling his company to Microsoft, for $US6.4 billion, in 2007. He’s always been politically active, but in the wake of the financial crisis he decided he’d use his money to push against the neoliberal policies that became orthodoxy in the ’80s. He formed a think tank, Civic Ventures, in his hometown of Seattle, and it successfully lobbied for an increased minimum wage and stronger gun laws in Washington state.

Hanauer’s now taking a more national approach, spreading his message through his popular podcast “Pitchfork Economics.”

Rose Marcario, the CEO of Patagonia, has managed to prioritise environmental policies while growing the business

Tommaso Mei/Patagonia

Rose Marcario has taken Patagonia‘s alignment of profits with purpose to the next level, embracing both its role as “the activist company” and a leader in sustainability best practices.

Marcario joined Patagonia as its COO and CFO in 2008 and became CEO in 2013; in that time, the company reportedly quadrupled its revenues while doubling down on environmentally beneficial decisions.

She had Patagonia sue the Trump administration after it drastically reduced the size of a national monument, and had earlier led a successful boycott of a trade show venue when Utah’s governor supported that reduction. In the midterm election, Patagonia partnered with Levi’s to get 400 companies to give their employees time off to vote.

Marcario’s overseen changes to Patagonia’s supply chains and production, cutting waste and developing both sustainable clothing materials and regenerative agricultural practices. Patagonia remains private, but has shared its findings with a network of large public corporations like Walmart, Nike, and Adidas.

“Everyone that I work with, from CEOs of big public companies to private companies, recognise things need to change,” Marcario told Business Insider. “And capitalism needs to evolve if we’re going to have a healthy planet and healthy people on the planet.”

Anna Mason, a partner at Revolution’s Rise of the Rest Seed Fund, is invigorating nascent startup scenes across the US

Courtesy of Revolution

Since joining Steve Case’s venture-capital firm Revolution in 2016, Anna Mason has helped take its “Rise of the Rest” initiative to the next level.

Mason both plans out the Rise of the Rest annual bus tour through American cities that have emerging startup scenes and helps determine how to spend its $US150 million seed fund.

“I sometimes refer to myself as the human social network,” she told us. She personally meets with 400 to 500 people in every city within the initiative’s network, and vets about just as many companies.

She’s built connections among startups, big corporations, politicians, and other community leaders around the country, both within a particular region and then in the larger Rise of the Rest family. Mason typically spends four or five months in each city ahead of a tour, and continues searching throughout the country for investment opportunities.

The extra time she puts into it, she said, makes the Rise of the Rest team an ally rather than a bunch of outsiders swooping in. “There’s something really powerful about meeting people where they are.”

Peter Scher, the head of corporate responsibility at JPMorgan Chase, is investing in underdeveloped cities around the world

Hollis Johnson/Business Insider

All major corporations have a philanthropic arm, but since 2014 JPMorgan Chase has developed its own into one that rivals major foundations in scale.

Peter Scher oversees these investments, which are on track to jump from $US250 million last year to $US350 million in 2019.

These include the AdvancingCities initiative, which develops business sectors in underdeveloped regions around the world through grants and small-business loans, and a recently announced $US350 million investment over five years into skills-training programs across America.

“Part of it is saying OK, public sector has programs, private sector has programs. How do you actually make all those work together in a very impactful way?” Scher told Business Insider.

“Affordable debt financing and public policy are two areas we think we can really use to scale some of the models that work.”

Elizabeth Warren, the US senator from Massachusetts (D), is fighting to improve capitalism

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Elizabeth Warren has a sense of urgency.

The Democratic senior US senator from Massachusetts, 69, has fought for a more just economy since entering the political sphere in the wake of the financial crisis. Now, she’s wrapped a presidential bid around that crusade.

“For the past 30 years we have put the American stamp of approval on giant corporations, even as they have ignored the interests of all but a tiny slice of Americans,” she wrote for The Wall Street Journal last year. “We should insist on a new deal.”

Her Accountable Capitalism Act, submitted last year, is a blueprint to her core values. The bill would require the largest corporations to file for a charter acknowledging their greater commitment to all stakeholders (like a federally recognised B Corp certification), and to have employees elect 40% of board members.

She is also for companies publicly disclosing their greenhouse gas emissions, and for regulators to bolster America’s antitrust laws (this would force the biggest tech companies to spin off some of their businesses).

“I look around and see this government that just works great for those at the top,” she said on “Pod Save America” in February. “I want to make this government work great for everyone else. That’s why I’m in it.”

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