From the Ed­i­tor

Fast Company - - Contents - Robert Safian ed­i­tor@fast­com­

In the days after Don­ald Trump was elected pres­i­dent, I found my­self reach­ing out to chief ex­ec­u­tives of sev­eral key busi­nesses that Fast Com­pany has cov­ered. The pres­i­den­tial cam­paign had con­vinced me that nei­ther party’s can­di­date, and nei­ther party, had a com­pelling vi­sion for how our tech­nol­ogy-driven cul­ture could both en­er­gize our coun­try and in­clude all Amer­i­cans. What I en­cour­aged of these CEOS was to use their perches to fill that lead­er­ship vac­uum.

There has long been de­bate in Amer­ica about the role of the cor­po­ra­tion. Is it a job- and wealth-pro­duc­ing mar­vel? Or is it a ne­far­i­ous, ra­pa­cious beast? “Cor­po­ra­tions aren’t to be trusted,” ar­gues Ian Brem­mer, pres­i­dent of global strat­egy firm Eura­sia Group. “The pre­sump­tion that Amer­ica sup­ports cap­i­tal­ism has never been true: The num­ber of peo­ple who have cap­i­tal and want to risk it is a tiny frac­tion. Most Amer­i­cans just want to be treated fairly.”

What’s clear is that U.S. busi­nesses and busi­ness lead­ers wield tremen­dous power. How they use that power will help de­fine the fu­ture of our world. Some ex­ec­u­tives be­lieve that the best way to ex­er­cise in­flu­ence is to move into gov­ern­ment from the pri­vate sec­tor. (See Austin Carr’s re­port, “Pres­i­dent Oprah?,” page 23.) Oth­ers see the spheres of in­flu­ence within com­pa­nies as their own points of lever­age: The com­bined an­nual rev­enues of the 20 largest Amer­i­can busi­nesses is more than $30 tril­lion, nearly dou­ble the gross do­mes­tic prod­uct of the United States. And these com­pa­nies cross many bor­ders. If you cal­i­brate the num­ber of lives that big U.S. com­pa­nies touch directly—like Facebook, which has nearly 2 bil­lion peo­ple in its user base—they have as much po­ten­tial for im­pact as any na­tional of­fi­cial.

So what might busi­ness lead­ers do with that in­flu­ence? That ques­tion is at the heart of our cover story (“Put Your Val­ues to Work,” page 50), which ex­plores how ex­ec­u­tives like Mark Zuckerberg and com­pa­nies from Airbnb to Uber are grap­pling with their roles. (It also flows through our state-by-state guide, “United States of In­no­va­tion,” be­gin­ning on page 70.) More and more com­pa­nies are sign­ing on to Pledge 1%, a com­mit­ment to ded­i­cate 1% of their eq­uity, their prod­uct, and their em­ploy­ees’ hours to non­prof­its. CEOS like Marc Be­nioff, at fast-grow­ing soft­ware provider Sales­force, are ac­tively pros­e­ly­tiz­ing that align­ing a busi­ness with higher val­ues, rather than solely pur­su­ing max­i­mum dol­lars, will ac­tu­ally boost fi­nan­cial per­for­mance in the long run. “You’ve seen the rise of more ac­tivist CEOS who stand for things,” Be­nioff says, “and rep­re­sent their em­ploy­ees and their stake­hold­ers in the same way a politi­cian would rep­re­sent the peo­ple who vote for them . . . . What is your com­pound growth rate of good over the life­time of your com­pany?”

It’s pos­si­ble that all of this is just a fad, and we’ll go back to a time when de­liv­er­ing prof­its and dol­lars to Wall Street is all that mat­ters in the C-suite. But I hope not. Be­cause some of the smartest peo­ple in the world run some of the most im­pres­sive, high­est-im­pact busi­nesses in the world. If they use those po­si­tions for some­thing more than just mak­ing money, for mak­ing the hu­man con­di­tion bet­ter across the globe, then any­thing is pos­si­ble.


Marc Be­nioff, left, along­side Ivanka Trump and Ger­man chan­cel­lor An­gela Merkel, met with the pres­i­dent to dis­cuss work­force de­vel­op­ment and gen­der equal­ity. “I made my point,” the CEO says.

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