The shareholder commons is
committed to fundamental
change in the capital markets
Founded in 2019, we are an independent nonprofit organization that leverages existing platforms and addresses systemic issues and structures that hinder a just and sustainable economy.
The Corporate Sustainability Movement
The Shareholder Commons grows out of the work our of our founding partners in creating paths for sustainable business. There is increasing focus on the imperative for more responsible corporate conduct, as evidenced by the recent Business Roundtable Statement on the Purpose of a Corporation, the Davos Manifesto and BlackRock’s letters to CEOs and clients, all calling in one way or another for companies to be more responsive to the interests of stakeholders other than their investors.
The Problem of the Business Case
Despite the important work being done, however, two related barriers to effective change have become apparent. First, when businesses embrace stakeholder values, they express the idea almost exclusively as a strategy that will create financial value for shareholders. Second, both investors and businesses try to address any cognitive dissonance between pursuing profit and pursuing purpose by denying that a conflict ever exists between caring for society and the environment on the one hand and optimizing long-term shareholder value on the other.
This denial is a potent but dangerous fantasy—markets are far from perfect, especially when common resources, like a healthy ecosystem or social cohesion are involved. As a result, the continued reliance and insistence on a “business case” for sustainability precludes private markets from taking the actions needed to rescue our planet and vulnerable communities from the increasing burdens of environmental damage and a disintegrating social fabric. The Shareholder Commons was born of this insight.
A New Model
We formed the Shareholder Commons to catalyze a movement to break free from the business case paradigm. In order to create a business environment where any company can authentically prioritize our planet and the people who live on it, we must find a way to deploy private capital in a manner that prioritizes vital environmental and social system over individual company profits, while preserving the critical pricing function of free markets.
It is an unpopular truth that responsible corporate action is not always consistent with maximizing a company’s financial returns, even over the long run. But the more potent reality is that investors (or beneficiaries) do not possess only a single interest in one company; they have diversified portfolios; they have lived experiences; and they are human beings with moral compasses who care about the well-being of future generations. This diversity of interests among investors creates an ideal organizing principal for broad and positive impact that can overcome the business case paradigm.
We envision a financial system in which investors isolate and elevate critical elements of social and environmental systemic value, ensuring those values are preserved through collective action. Once the requirements are met, businesses can compete for profits on a level and sustainable playing field. This model elevates systemic value while preserving competitive markets, thus paving the way for an economic paradigm that realizes the promise of capitalism while rejecting dangerous excesses.
Founding Partner, Chief Executive Officer
LEARN MORE ABOUT RICK
Rick practiced law for 26 years at a leading Wilmington-based firm, including four years as managing partner. During that time, he was selected as one of the ten most highly regarded corporate governance lawyers worldwide and as one of the 500 leading lawyers in the United States. In 2015, Rick became Head of Legal Policy at B Lab, where he worked to create sustainable corporate governance structures around the globe. He left that position in 2019 to develop the concepts behind The Shareholder Commons as a B Lab Fellow.
Rick serves as President-Elect of the Benefit Company Bar Association and chairs the Funding Committee of the Delaware Access to Justice Commission. He also serves as Director and Treasurer of the American College of Governance Counsel, a member of the Commonwealth Climate and Law Initiative Advisory Board, a Research Fellow of British Academy Future of the Corporation Program, and a member of the Advisory Council of the Program on Purposeful Ownership at the Said Business School, Oxford. He is also Secretary of the Transgender Legal Defense and Education Fund.
Founding Partner, Director of Strategy & Operations
LEARN MORE ABOUT JENN
Jenn has worked in the impact economy for the majority of her decade-long career since graduating from Yale. She most recently served as Global Partnerships Manager for B Lab, a nonprofit organization that supports for-profit enterprises committed to using the power of business to solve social and environmental problems. Her work centered around the engagement of B Lab’s vast network of regional partner organizations, empowering them to develop robust B Corp communities and forge strong relationships through collaborative action. She also previously served as Chief of Staff for B Lab co-founder Andrew Kassoy, focusing on partnership development, fundraising, and thought leadership.
Prior to her roles at B Lab, Jenn was Director of Programs and Partnerships at The globalislocal Fund, a philanthropic group based in Philadelphia that deployed grant capital to high-impact social entrepreneurs in Asia, Africa, and Latin America. She began her career in the wellness industry at Bella Luna Yoga, a boutique travel yoga company developing retreat and event programing for international resorts, and with Kitchen Porch, a seasonally-focused catering company on Martha’s Vineyard.
She is a 2009 graduate of Yale University, where she was a member of the women’s varsity lacrosse team and president of The Colony Foundation, where she has now served as a Trustee since 2018. She is also a member of the Advisory Council at Triskeles, an impact investment and philanthropy foundation based in suburban Philadelphia.
LEARN MORE ABOUT ALEX
Alex is in the final year of his JD/MBA program at Villanova University. A lifelong Philadelphia resident, he is a graduate of the Philadelphia public school system and the University of Pennsylvania, where he was a double major in Political Science and History. Alex is passionate about public service; during college, he participated in the Penn in Washington program, where he interned for Senator Robert P. Casey Jr. Before joining the Shareholder Commons, Alex was a judicial intern at Pennsylvania Superior Court. Currently, he is the judge of elections for the 43rd ward, 39th division in South Philadelphia.
LEARN MORE ABOUT STACEY
Stacey is a third-year student at Villanova University’s Charles Widger School of Law. Stacey is on the Villanova Law Review, where she currently serves as an Articles Editor. Last summer, Stacey interned for the Federal Trade Commission in the Bureau of Consumer Protection. After graduation, Stacey will spend a year clerking for Judge LeGrow in the Delaware Superior Court.
Executive Director, Institute for Law and Economics, University of Pennsylvania Law School
Andrea “Andy” Hong Marra
executive director of the Transgender Legal Defense & Education Fund
Founder & CEO of Global Diversity Leadership Exchange & CEO of Ibis Communications
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