Six Ways BK Fights Against Shareholder Primacy

One reason that Lynn Stout’s new book, The Shareholder Value Myth, resonates so much with Berrett-Koehler Publishers is that we have always believed that a company needs to be operated in the interests of all of its stakeholders, not just shareholders. 

We have reaffirmed this stance many times since I expressed it in our first catalog in 1992: “If I were to choose one word to describe our vision, it would be ‘stewardship.’  By this I mean a deep sense of responsibility to administer the publishing company for the benefit of all of our ‘stakeholder’ groups – authors, customers, employees, suppliers and subcontractors, owners, and the societal and environmental communities in which we live and work.  Each of these groups contributes to the success of our publishing venture, and each has a ‘stake’ or investment in its success, whether that investment is time, talent, money, or other resources.”

We put this philosophy into practice in multiple ways:

1. Stakeholder Ownership.  Berrett-Koehler currently has 240 shareholders, who include all of our stakeholder groups: employees, authors, customers, suppliers, service providers, sales partners, and publishing/bookselling industry colleagues.

2. Stakeholder Board Representation.  The Berrett-Koehler Board of Directors includes representatives of each of our stakeholder groups, including an employee representative, an author representative, a customer representative, a supplier representative, a service provider representative, a sales partner representative, and a publishing/bookselling industry representative.

3. Mission.  The Berrett-Koehler mission is “Creating a World That Works for All.”  This helps keep us focused on bigger objectives than just maximizing return to shareholders.

4. Values.  Berrett-Koehler’s core values, as spelled out in our strategic plan and other documents, are stewardship, quality, partnership, and sustainability.  These values help us keep our focus on the good of the whole.

5. B Corp Certification.  Berrett-Koehler recently became certified as a “B Corp,” which means that we are committed to creating benefit for all stakeholders, not just shareholders.  We have joined the 500 other certified B Corps in creating a new sector of the economy that harnesses the power of private enterprise to create public benefit.  Click here to learn more about this growing movement:

6. Impact Assessment.  To qualify as a B Corp, Berrett-Koehler recently completed a rigorous assessment measuring how well we meet standards of social and environmental performance, including operating our company in the interests of all stakeholders.  Click here to learn more about this impact assessment.

We are continually searching for ways to better serve the interests of all of Berrett-Koehler’s stakeholders.  I welcome your ideas and feedback on how we can better do this.