ECONOMY

Companies Serious About Reaching Net Zero Carbon Should Do This, Says Harvard’s Gandhi

I think this is where the very apparent gray area appears. You can measure emissions, carbon footprint but there is now a growing body of activist investors against big tech, gaming, junk food. It isn’t black and white. How do boards navigate those boundaries?

Vikram Gandhi: I think some of the social media is a very interesting example because they’ve obviously had a lot of attacks on them. The three issues which they have to deal with are antitrust, privacy laws and this whole issue of content management and content control.

I think all those three issues whether it be Facebook or Google or others, they all have a similar issue which is – how do we deal with this? Which is, I’m not trying to be a monopolist…. we have a Facebook class that I teach at HBS. I take a poll and say okay, Facebook owns Instagram, WhatsApp etc., so there are three companies who are seriously right there (gestures high with his hand) in terms of social media.

How many of you are on one of those three? 100%.

How many of you think there’s a problem with one of those three? 100%

Okay, why would you not just sign off and not be a part of Facebook and WhatsApp and Instagram? Nobody wants to get off.

So, 100% of them are on it, 100% of them think there’s some issue but none of them want to actually get off.

They say “this is my network, I mean if I get off Facebook and Instagram, I’m like cut off from the world”.

So, it’s really an interesting debate how do you manage the fact, from a board perspective, that the company is adding serious value but that you and I are the product for these companies, we’re not the customer. The customers are the advertisers.

How do you actually navigate that where, yes, you have a fiduciary obligation to create maximum value for shareholders, you’ve got other aspects that you need to focus on but how do you do what’s right in terms of your community?

So, the question for boards is, what is the purpose of a corporation?

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