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For multi-stakeholder capitalism, the future is now

Recently, 160 global companies came together to endorse a new set of criteria for investors to use to screen companies for investment and measure performance. There is nothing surprising about investors seeking new ways to get an edge in investing. What is surprising is that these measures are not tied to short-term financial performance, but rather to environmental, social and governance considerations. What also is surprising is that the companies leading this initiative are not fringe, socially conscious companies, but rather the Big Four accounting firms and five of the largest banks in the world. What is going on? The simple answer is that this initiative reflects a dramatic shift in how the investment community and large public companies are starting to view the world.

First, investors are shifting their focus away from short-term profitability to longer-term and more sustainable and resilient value creation. That shift requires companies to take into account the interests of multiple stakeholders beyond shareholders, like employees, customers and communities, as they are all critical to long-term success.

Second, investors are noting that the leading generators of value for our largest companies like Apple, Google, Amazon, Microsoft, et al., and our economy at large are shifting from tangible assets like factories to intangible assets like intellectual property, culture, employee engagement, governance, transparency and brand authenticity, among others. Notably, these intangible assets are not easily ascertained from financial statements; hence, the desire for new supplemental standardized metrics that reflect corporate performance in these areas.

Finally, investors and companies alike are taking note that amid COVID-19 and nationwide protests for racial justice, as employees, consumers and community members, people want and are expecting more from companies. They want them to serve more stakeholders and focus their talents, expertise and energy on larger problems than simply making money.

At Androscoggin Bank, we are excited to answer the call for companies to do more. We recently underwent a rigorous and transparent assessment to become a Certified B Corporation, and now join national companies like Patagonia, Ben and Jerry’s, Athleta, Tom’s of Maine and a growing number of Maine companies. This certification is analogous to organic certification for food, or LEED certification for green buildings, except that instead of certifying a product or building, B Corp certification measures how sustainably and consciously a company positively impacts its employees, customers, local communities and the environment. Like the companies we are joining, we look forward to demonstrating that businesses that pair purpose with performance can not only survive, but also successfully thrive while serving all of the stakeholders who are essential to their success.