Opinion

The Great Debate

‘Inclusive Capitalism’: Bridging business-labor divide

Economic policy debates often focus on areas of division and discord. On the minimum wage, you’ll see some businesses fighting labor. On regulation, you have government versus the free market.

There are plenty of areas where American workers and companies agree, however, such as the need for public investments in infrastructure and education.

There is another worker-business alignment, explored in a new Center for American Progress report, that has us — a corporate chief executive and a labor leader — excited about its potential to boost innovation and workers’ wages when we desperately need both.

“Inclusive capitalism” is based on the simple idea that when a company does well, its workers should also do well. Mechanisms to promote inclusive capitalism include everything from broad-based profit-sharing and stock options to worker cooperatives and employee stock ownership plans.

This can lead to innovations that help U.S. companies compete in the global economy. Ideas for new products and efficiency improvements don’t just come from the top; often, they come from less senior workers. Yet we are largely ignoring a proven strategy for uncovering innovation: rewarding workers for the gains they help create by paying them a share of the profits.

Winning back the public’s trust

aron-cramer– Aron Cramer is president and CEO of BSR, a global business network and consultancy focused on sustainability. The opinions expressed are his own. –

The fall of Lehman Brothers last September triggered a collapse in financial markets, and then the real economy. It also signaled a further decline in the public’s trust in business. One year on, has anything changed?

At the start of 2009, only 36 percent of the U.S. public trusted business to “do what is right”—down dramatically from 59 percent one year before—according to surveys from the PR firm Edelman. But as of this July, trust levels in business had recovered somewhat, to 48 percent. Yet just as with the economic recovery overall, it is far too early to declare victory.

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