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La maximisation de la valeur des actions est-elle incompatible avec le développement durable ?

18 avril 2013

Aujourd’hui, j’ai choisi de partager avec vous un article de Richard Lawton* sur l’importance pour les conseils d’administration d’intégrer la perspective du développement durable et de la responsabilité sociale dans leur processus décisionnel.

Je crois que les C.A. doivent prendre leurs responsabilités (prendre l’intérêt de l’entreprise comme un tout) et ne pas céder à la pression des actionnaires qui souhaitent réaliser des gains à court terme …

« Managing the tension between maximizing shareholder value and integrating sustainability into corporate strategy requires adaptive leadership at the Board level ».

Is Maximizing Shareholder Value Inherently Incompatible with Sustainability?

« What is the purpose of a publicly traded company?  Are maximizing profits and share price synonymous with maximizing shareholder value?  How do shareholders who may have diverse goals, interests and motives define value?  Answers to fundamental questions like these, along with the underlying assumptions behind them, are being surfaced and re-examined as concepts like sustainability, corporate social responsibility (CSR), and the triple bottom line have become part of common business nomenclature. While social enterprises like benefit corporations are leading a structural shift toward a more generative and less extractive economic system, publicly traded companies still wield the greatest influence over the economy’s design and function since they account for the vast majority of global G.D.P…

English: The "three pillars" of sust...

English: The « three pillars » of sustainability bounded by the environment (earth, life) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The National Association of Corporate Directors (NACD), with over 13,000 director members, recently published a cover story for it’s NACD Directorship magazine entitled “Sustainability Rising.” The article is an ambitious attempt at offering directors a comprehensive and multi-faceted overview of sustainability and its growing importance as a governance issue. Noting that corporate sustainability can be an enigmatic term, the article cites The Dow Jones World Sustainability Index’s definition of it as being “an approach to creating long-term shareholder value by embracing opportunities and managing risks deriving from economic, environmental, and social trends and challenges.”

This ambiguous definition seems to suggest that sustainability is just another possible means to the desired end of creating long-term shareholder value.  But is creating long-term shareholder value the only desired end of a corporation?  Could social and environmental measures of value also be desired ends alongside economic value?  Isn’t this what triple bottom line means?

Maximizing Shareholder Value:  Legal Requirement or Managerial Choice?

In her insightful book “The Shareholder Value Myth,” Cornell Law School Professor Lynn Stout explains how, contrary to popular belief, corporate law does not require boards of directors to maximize shareholder value.  Lynn argues that stakeholder statutes and the business judgment rule give directors the latitude necessary to consider the interests of other stakeholders, such as employees and the environmental impacts on communities, in establishing corporate goals and strategy – even at the expense of short-term profits or share price. She also illustrates how a myopic focus on share price paradoxically ends up harming shareholders and other stakeholders over the long-term, since such a one-dimensional approach induces and rewards behavior that is at odds with natural laws that govern all complex systems ».


*Richard Lawton is Founder & Principal of Triple Ethos, LLC, a consultancy that works with organizations to integrate sustainability values into board governance and strategy.  He earned his MBA in Sustainability from Antioch University New England in 2012, and is a Governance Fellow with the National Association of Corporate Directors

Shareholder Proposals Show Investors are Pushing for More Disclosure… (

How shareholder advocacy is impacting corporate sustainability (

The triple bottom line: Young Canadian found his calling in corporate responsibility (

Corporate Sustainability Drives Public Confidence, Survey Finds (

Employees Take Corporate Sustainability Efforts Home, Study Says (

« Twenty years on, corporate sustainability still lacking » (

Corporations Can No Longer Sleepwalk Towards Sustainability (

Sustainability as a new business strategy (

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