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Whom should the corporation serve?

Should shareholders come first? Or should companies also serve their employees, customers, and society in general?

Should shareholders come first? Or should companies also serve their employees, customers, and society in general?

Ed Butler explores the growing backlash against "shareholder primacy" - the idea espoused in the 1970s by economist Milton Friedman that businesses should only care about maximising the bottom line for the benefit of their investors, and that other stakeholders' interests should not be their prerogative.

He speaks to Lenore Palladino, economics professor at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, who has a list of changes she wants to see in the way that American companies are governed, plus Ken Bertsch of the Council of Institutional Investors, who says that the real problem is not the role of investors like the ones he represents, but too much focus on short-termism.

Meanwhile Chris Turner thinks he has the solution - he works for the non-profit organisation B Lab, which provides an objective assessment to hundreds of corporations of whether they are having a positive impact on society.

(Picture: An American flag is displayed on a trading screen at the New York Stock Exchange; Credit: Bryan R. Smith/AFP/Getty Images)

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