Hi, and welcome back to Semafor Business. I’m glad you’re here, and I guess we should all be glad any of us are here.
It’s been four years since America’s biggest CEOs sketched out a more egalitarian, less profit-driven vision for the modern corporation. Since then we’ve had a pandemic, a broad reckoning over social justice, and the weaponization of “wokeism” in a fevered election year. It’s worth taking a look at what’s actually changed inside big companies, so today I did just that. The answer: not much.
It’s not just about the numbers, though they’re not great (see below). There’s a notable shift from the late 2010s, when CEOs set diversity quotas, boosted philanthropic giving, and joined Instagram.
I think a lot of it traces to the benign business backdrop of that decade. The job was easier. Thriving companies had the luxury of leaning, as Procter & Gamble’s chief brand officer later said, “a bit too far into the good” at the expense of performance and financial discipline. Now we’re swinging back.
Plus, what WeWork’s interim CEO had to say yesterday to the company’s landlords, and I texted with former UAW union boss Rory Gamble as the strike clock ticks in Detroit.