Ask any CEO about immigration, and chances are they will respond with frustration, resulting from their inability to access a global talent pool. The difference between the view from Capitol Hill and the one from the boardroom of a Fortune 500 company? When the bottom line beckons, politics necessarily takes a backseat.
“It’s all about business, and the bottom line is that business needs immigrants,” says Stanley Bergman, CEO of healthcare distributor Henry Schein, No. 238 on the Fortune 500 list of America’s largest companies. Bergman tells Fortune that it’s important for companies to align business interests with the needs of society. Failure to operate with a social mission can mean distancing your company from the most important customer segment of the moment: the hyper-involved millennial.
“Millennials are driving change, and they’re becoming a key component of consumer dollars,” adds Bergman, who believes that meeting the needs of a more vocal population is a competitive advantage. But the issue is not just with consumers; to encourage greater diversity at the corporate level, companies must work to close the skills gap.
Bergman believes that immigration is truly a bipartisan issue, and it starts with easing visa restriction laws in the United States. “It doesn’t make economic sense to train immigrants in university, and then a year later we tell them to leave the country—we’ll give you a visa for two years,” says Bergman. “It does make economic sense to treat all people equal; to treat diversity as a critical component of public policy.”
He adds: “We have a higher ambition than simply to make money, and at the end of the day, our return on investment is pretty good.”
Watch the video above for more from Fortune’s interview with Bergman.
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