On this week’s episode of Lever Time, news editor Lucy Dean Stockton is joined by researcher Rosanna Landis Weaver and Andrew Behar, CEO of the non-profit shareholder advocacy organization As You Sow, to discuss how they’re using stock ownership in publicly-traded companies to promote corporate change from within.

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A transcript of this episode is available here.

50 years ago, economist Milton Friedman argued that a corporation’s “greatest responsibility lies in the satisfaction of the shareholders.” In other words, the primary goal of every business is to increase its profits and maximize returns to investors. But in hindsight, even Fortune magazine acknowledges that the ideology of “shareholder primacy” has extensively damaged society. 

That’s where shareholder advocates come in, since they use their ownership in publicly traded companies to influence company decision-making. Whether it's pushing for transparency, addressing ethical concerns, advocating for sustainable practices, or curtailing CEO pay, shareholders have the ability to shape the companies in which they own stock. 

In today’s interview, Rosanna and Andrew explain how their organization As You Sow practices shareholder advocacy, including a recent win at Starbucks to reduce their plastic waste. They break down their annual list of “The 100 Most Overpaid CEOs,” which details how some of the highest paid CEOs actually underperform for their companies. And they discuss how the Republican-led House Judiciary Committee recently opened an investigation into As You Sow along with other organizations, as part of their culture war against ESG (Environment, Social, and Governance) investments. 

BONUS PREMIUM POD: On Monday's bonus episode of Lever Time Premium, exclusively for The Lever’s supporting subscribers, we’ll be publishing our interview with journalist and author Cole Stangler about his new book Paris Is Not Dead: Surviving Hypergentrification in the City of Light, which explores how gentrification has affected the cultural makeup of Paris, and the public housing policies that have helped maintain the city’s diverse, working-class character.

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