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Stakeholder-capitalism skeptics should listen to Chobani founder Hamdi Ulukaya and the Hewlett Foundation

February 16, 2022, 12:01 PM UTC

Good morning.

There’s a lot of skepticism these days about CEOs who say they want to make the world better. I encourage the most hardened of those skeptics to listen to Chobani founder and CEO Hamdi Ulukaya in this week’s episode of our Leadership Next podcast. I asked him where his concept of the CEO’s job comes from. His response:

“It comes from my background. I’m a farmer’s boy. I grew up in a very rural part of Turkey. And I saw the ugly part of business growing up. You have the rich and successful who think they are chosen ones. And then ordinary people pay a price for it. And this distance between leadership in the community and the working class is a big crack. A big, deep crack. And you are either going to be okay with it, or you grow with anger and join the rebellions.”

So when he bought an abandoned Kraft yogurt factory in upstate New York, he took a different approach.

“What I saw in that factory that I bought (was) that a large corporation left and left behind people that worked in that factory for 70 years, so many generations, left the junk plant and left an environment that was damaged for years, with no one from the high tower to say goodbye. When I grabbed a few of those people and said: What if we can turn this around and make this completely different?… I bet on those people and have made the impossible possible.”

The rest is Chobani history; you can listen to the full interview on Apple or Spotify.

Yesterday afternoon, I had a separate conversation with Larry Kramer, who heads the Hewlett Foundation, which today is announcing a $40 million initiative to create multidisciplinary academic centers focused on “reimagining capitalism.” The new initiative is part of a broader effort by a number of foundations premised on the notion that the “neoliberal” consensus that drove economic policy for the last half century has failed and is in need of a replacement. Says Kramer:

“We are in the middle of a breakdown. There is no question about that. Neoliberalism is dying. It’s all but dead. And what is going to replace it isn’t clear yet.”

Kramer said the idea that businesses should focus solely on profits is itself a neoliberal concept that doesn’t match human experience. People and companies compete in a capitalist system to advance their own self-interest, to be sure. But “everyone conceives of themselves as members of groups and collaborates and cooperates more than they compete.” Profit and social purpose may at times conflict. But they can go hand in hand. Kudos to CEOs like Ulukaya who look for those opportunities where they do.

More news below. And you can find more details on the Hewlett Foundation initiative here.

Alan Murray
@alansmurray

alan.murray@fortune.com

TOP NEWS

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Big Tech fines

A Russian court has upheld a fine against Twitter for refusing to remove banned content, meaning Twitter, Google and Meta now collectively face $1.8 million in fines over such violations. That may be chump change for the companies, but information regulator Roskomnadzor is also predicting a turnover-based fine for Meta, which would likely be a substantial step up. TASS

Musk's monkeys

Elon Musk's Neuralink startup has admitted euthanizing eight monkeys during research experiments, but denies accusations that they experienced extreme suffering. Two of the animals were apparently killed on schedule to gather data during autopsy, while the others developed complications associated with having computer chips stuck into their brains. Fortune

Prince Andrew

Prince Andrew has settled the lawsuit filed against him by Virginia Giuffre, who accused him of sexually abusing and raping her when she was a child. British reports put the figure as high as $16 million, with many saying the Queen provided much of the funding. That would ultimately mean the British taxpayer paid for Andrew to settle over a disgraceful action he was strongly denying only recently, and the episode will surely cast a pall over the Queen's platinum jubilee celebrations this year. Guardian

AROUND THE WATERCOOLER

Coal funding

International banks parceled out over $1.5 trillion in financing for coal projects—with institutional investors also ponying up $1.2 trillion—over the last few years, despite widespread net zero promises. Fortune

Political donations

Corporate donations to members of Congress who failed to confirm the Electoral College's certified ballots last year—particularly insurgency leaders like Ted Cruz, Matt Gaetz and Josh Hawley—have plummeted, as Yale's Jeffrey Sonnenfeld and Steven Tian write for Fortune: "While businesses have lost some interest in supporting congressional campaigns in general… they are three times more wary of assisting objectors." Fortune

Beer prices

The Dutch brewing giant Heineken is set to increase its beer prices by what it calls "courageous" amounts, in the face of inflationary factors. Heineken also warned inflation could lead consumers to cut back on their beer intake. Fortune

Silicon Valley lawsuits

Fortune's Michal Lev-Ram has an interesting profile of employment lawyer David Lowe, who has "emerged as a go-to for tech employees—from C-level executives to those on the factory front lines—who say they've been wronged by their multibillion-dollar employers" such as Tesla, Pinterest and Rivian. Fortune

This edition of CEO Daily was edited by David Meyer.

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