ESG Meets Fiduciary Duty at the Bottom Line

Nov 5, 2015 4:00 PM ET

ESG Meets Fiduciary Duty at the Bottom Line

“There is one and only one social responsibility of business–to use its resources and engage in activities designed to increase its profits.” So goes the famous statement by the Nobel Prize-winning economist, Milton Friedman, about the purpose of business. Until recently, it has stood as the most quoted of corporate commandments. Now, that’s changing. I’m John Howell for 3BL Media.

Until recently, a corollary of the “profits are all” belief was that integrating ESG factors into business models ran counter to what was defined as fiduciary duty. That is, increasing profits would be hindered by the extra expense of ESG practices. Today, that thinking has been reversed. Failure to include ESG factors in reporting and accounting can lead to substantial costs. Also, companies can miss out on additional revenue opportunities open to those who include ESG issues as part of their business operations and brand positioning.

Today’s investors, from asset managers to pension funds, include evaluations of a company’s integration of ESG factors in their analysis of its bottom line and in investment decision making. ESG is now part of the standard definition of fiduciary duty for any well-governed company.




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