FREEPORT — As the owner of a small business, Maine Beer Co., I have long believed we need to reassess the role and obligations of private enterprise in our society.

Dan Kleban, photographed in February at Maine Beer Co.’s Freeport brewery, says businesses can be successful and protect the interests of people and the planet. Brianna Soukup/Staff Photographer

Thus, I was encouraged when I read that the Business Roundtable – an organization comprised of CEOs from many of America’s largest corporations – recently revised its position on the “Purpose of a Corporation.”

Previously, the Business Roundtable embraced the “shareholder supremacy” doctrine that declares a corporation’s primary rationale for existing is to maximize shareholder profits. This profit-driven approach has guided corporate governance for much of the last century – too often with calamitous consequences for American workers and our environment.

It appears that corporate America is finally acknowledging, at least in word, what Main Street America – and many small businesses in Maine, including Maine Beer Co. – have long recognized: Doing right by all stakeholders needs to be part of every business decision.

Doing what’s right for our communities, our customers, our employees and the environment is good for business. It’s not an either-or, and it never has been.

We should retain a healthy amount of skepticism that this change by the Business Roundtable will result in “better” corporate behavior. We still need strong, consistent and science-based regulations to protect the environment, employees and customers, but we should also acknowledge that this is an important step in the right direction.

From my own experience, I know that businesses can be successful and protect the interests of people and the planet.

Maine Beer Co. is celebrating its 10-year anniversary this year, and we have been preaching something akin to the stakeholder motto from Day One in the hopes of showing others that you can do right by the bottom line by doing right by your workers, the environment and your community.

My brother and I started Maine Beer Co. as the world was struggling through the height of the Great Recession and a global financial collapse. We saw people losing their jobs, their insurance, their homes and their retirement savings.

This financial calamity was created by the economic model that embraces “shareholder supremacy” as the Golden Rule for corporate governance, driven by greed and the bottom line. This system is unsustainable, not only because it is morally bankrupt and because it can wreak havoc on hardworking Americans, but also because people simply will not tolerate it in the long term.

From the beginning of our company, we pledged to prioritize those we employ by providing a living wage, health care benefits, paid time off and helping employees prepare for retirement.

We pledged that 1 percent of all sales would go to environmental nonprofits.

Maximizing the bottom line and treating people and our planet with dignity and respect are not mutually exclusive ideals – they are mutually reinforcing. Our success over the past 10 years both as a business and how much we have been able to give back, proves this point.

Our business model is not one born of pure altruism. Today, it is often a competitive advantage to treat people and the planet well. Along with voting at the ballot box in the hopes of instigating government action that protects their family, their home and their hard-earned savings, people are voting with their pocketbook – and it is this insight that business leaders need to realize and embrace.

I know that there are many other business owners who are doing their part to strengthen their communities and our state. Their leadership is helping to change the business climate in Maine for the better.

As business leaders, large and small, we need to lead with our values. We need to change the mindset of leaders, public and private, and support public policies that improve the lives of Maine residents, protect our environment and help grow our economy.

We can create a virtuous cycle where business can do well for itself and for those it relies on, instead of a vicious cycle where business devours resources (human and environmental) in order to get ahead.


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