On May 16, Robert MacGregor, co-chair of the Caux Round Table headquartered in St. Paul, challenged Minnesota business leaders to reassert the magic of principled leadership that has made Minnesota so successful economically, socially, culturally and politically (“It’s time for business leaders to stand up”).
From my perspective as CEO of Best Buy and now a member of several corporate boards here — Mayo Clinic, General Mills, the Carlson Companies, American Public Media — Bob’s challenge is easy to meet. That is why I am volunteering to help the Caux Round Table both here in Minnesota and around the world.
Today, with growing concern about climate change, income inequality and institutional racism, it is more vital than ever that Minnesota not rest on its laurels but build upon the legacy that we have received.
It took a special combination of factors to turn a territory with a history of unsustainable resource exploitation, especially in the northern half of the state, into the model it is today.
Perhaps the most important factor was the steady, common-sense leadership provided by many of the old “first families” of Minnesota — the Daytons, the Pillsburys, the MacMillans and many others. These families and the enterprises they founded had the foresight to see that their companies’ long-term prosperity depended upon creating a state with strong social capital, good infrastructure, a well-educated citizenry and an honest, democratic government that serves all of the people’s interests.
The Caux Round Table just completed a survey of the commitments currently made by many leading Minnesota companies in their vision and mission statements. These values of social responsibility include: honesty, integrity, innovation, customer service, stewardship, trust, caring, community citizenship and philanthropy, diversity, employee development, environmental sustainability, and standards of excellence.
Business leaders can step forward and bridge the gaps between private enterprise, divided politicians and social advocates to find a common agenda for Minnesota.
The Itasca Project brings together business leaders to look ahead at community needs. The Minnesota Business Partnership has long focused on educational achievement for all. And Greater MSP seeks to highlight and reinforce the institutional advantages that bring higher living standards to Minnesota.
These Minnesota business objectives align precisely with the new global Sustainable Development Goals just adopted last year by all of the governments in our global community acting as the General Assembly of the United Nations.
Sustainable development is a new template for a moral capitalism. It envisions economic growth that is sustainable for people and for the environment.
Bringing about better lives for all transcends the left-right ideological divide, the bitter Trump-Clinton partisanship. The sustainable development goals are there to build up individuals, not place power in the hands of one elite or another.
Both right and left can subordinate their ideologies to the cause of working together for common outcomes that will further the values of each point of view.
James Madison in his justly famous No. 10 Federalist paper warned that democratic republics such as ours are most likely to fail due to the self-seeking pressures brought to bear by intransigent factions each set on dominating the others.
Too much division is like having your car stuck in deep mud: The engine races and the wheels spin, but the car goes nowhere.
This is undermining our state’s remarkable history of accomplishment through public-private partnerships.
To fix our politics — broken by this difficulty we have in working together — we need to find common ground. We need agreement on some goals for the common good. Business leadership can help us work practically on what will improve ordinary lives for the greater good.
Moral business leadership can be therapeutic in a time of political division and gridlock.
Brad Anderson is chairman of American Public Media and retired vice chairman of Best Buy Inc.