Lynn Forester de Rothschild on Launching the Council
Lynn Forester de Rothschild is a Founding and Managing Partner of Inclusive Capital Partners, which seeks positively differentiated returns by deploying its governance skills and value investment discipline to improve environmental and societal performance of the businesses in which it invests. She is also the Founder of the Coalition for Inclusive Capitalism and the Council for Inclusive Capitalism.
How did you come up with the concept of the Council for Inclusive Capitalism?
I had been working on these issues and convening conversations since 2012 because I believed that politics and capitalism needs to return to a basic sense of decency. By June of 2015, Laudato Si’ was written by Pope Francis. By September, the Sustainable Development Goals were agreed to by the United Nations. By December, the Paris climate accord had been signed. You had every reason to believe that there was a greater sense of the common good.
That is why I reached out to the Holy Father, because I think that a lot of what it will take to change behavior is a moral and ethical reawakening. It’s not just policy, it’s not just taxes, it’s not just reforming labor laws – all of which are important. But at the core of it, it has to come from common decency.
God did not invent the corporation. Society allows a corporation to exist, gives shareholders limited liability, and expects something in return. I believe that CEOs and boards are willing to share the wealth and do more. We need to profitably solve the problems of people and planet. That’s why business exists.
How have your views of capitalism evolved since you started in the business world?
Graduating from school in the 80’s, there was an Ayn Rand-inspired view that if you pursue your interests, all of society is lifted. So I really did believe that all I needed to do was to pursue my career in a legal, ethical, exciting way, and I didn’t have to worry about society.
We didn’t anticipate the kind of disparity that developed over those 20 years. By 2008 it was impossible to ignore. The concentration of wealth in America was back to levels we had during the Gilded Age. In the 1960s the ratio of CEO pay to average worker pay was 25 to one. Today it is 320 to one. “Greed is good” was never a concept for Adam Smith.
We also have to be honest that in each of our two recent crises — the great financial crisis and the COVID-19 crisis — the government came to the aid of the
wealthiest. Some have called it “socialism for the rich and capitalism for everyone else.” There’s something to that. I had believed that our moral compass would tell us that we need to take better care of the people who take care of us.
How is your work at Inclusive Capital Partners advancing inclusive capitalism?
If there is going to be a system change, the capital markets need to reward shareholders. That is only going to happen if there are really talented investors who find the new levers of value creation, and are engaging actively with companies that are transforming at scale to become cleaner and more inclusive, and those companies become the ones that are the most valuable. Then we’ve created a race to the top.