The Character of the Corporation: It’s a Wonderful Life — for Cats
By Eve Tahmincioglu

In the midst of a housing crisis in Silicon Valley, two cats named Tina and Louise are living large in an apartment costing $1,500 a month. It’s just the two felines living alone because their owner went to college and the student’s father opted to give the furry friends their own space.

The Mercury News reported the tale of two kitties the same week Microsoft announced it was earmarking $500 million to create more affordable housing in the Seattle area, a move that many hope will get tech titans in Silicon Valley also doing something to curb the housing and homelessness problems in their


• The Character of the Corporation. (Intro) Delaware Supreme Court Chief Justice Leo Strine tells Directors & Boards that it is not “sustainable to have societies where large corporations do not have to align their business practices with the interests of living, breathing human beings who deserve a safe environment, economic security and consumer protection.” 

• Profit and PurposeIndra Nooyi, former PepsiCo chairman, talks about balancing bottom line and societal success.

• ESG Is On Costco's Board AgendaChairman Hamilton E. "Tony" James discusses the company's focus on environmental, social, governance issues.


• The Story of "S"What does "social" in ESG encompass? We talk to governance experts about their take.

• Best Buy's Road to Gender Parity in the Boardroom: It's not about tokenism, it's about business strategy and doing the right thing.

Courageous Boards Can Drive the Profit-People-Planet Agenda: CEO of The B Team talks about the role boards need to play.

• How Can Boards Wrestle the ESG Agenda? Questions to ask the CEO.

• ESG Faces Tests of Staying Power: Will a potential economic downturn, or the ghost of Milton Friedman, dampen the social-purpose movement?

• Stop Fighting ESG: Tips for becoming environmental, social and governance board leaders despite the lack of ESG clarity and standards.

• To Figure out the "S" in ESG, Look Within: Directors need to assess how their core business connects to society.

 ESG Point/Counterpoint: Should environmental, social and governance reporting be standardized and mandated?


Last month, California Gov. Gavin Newsom made a public plea to “corporate California.”

“I want to see the Valley step up and match our contributions,” Newsom said during a press conference. “The workforce housing issues have been exacerbated by the success of a lot of these companies. I do not begrudge other people’s success, but that success has created burdens and stress. And we are doing our part, and I will be asking them to do their part to amplify our efforts, to match those efforts and to increase our capacity to deliver.”

The governor is asking corporate leaders to “do their part,” but should executives and directors guide their companies to have a role in curbing income inequality, or any other pressing social issue?

This is the question we tackle in this issue of Directors & Boards, as we take apart the environmental, social and governance movement with perspectives from folks in top boardrooms and beyond.

Former PepsiCo chairman Indra Nooyi offers insights on her approach to social issues and balancing that with the bottom line; Costco chairman Hamilton E. “Tony” James discusses the company’s ESG focus; Best Buy director Kathy J. Higgins talks about why and how the company reached gender parity on the board; CalPERS’ Anne Simpson and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Tom Quaadman battle it out on whether ESG reporting should be mandated; and April Hall, our senior editor, takes on the Herculean task of defining the “S” for social in ESG; among other articles.

And we share insights from chief justice of the Delaware Supreme Court Leo Strine on the social-good imperative.

It’s the kickoff for our coverage this year that will focus on an over-arching theme: “The Character of the Corporation.”

As Nooyi puts it, it’s about “the fundamental belief that performance will be enhanced by defining a greater purpose.”

What that purpose is and how far boards should push social purpose as a priority is a debate we hope to inform in this issue and in the year ahead.

It’s hard to dispute the fact that having thousands of homeless people on the streets of one of the richest parts of the world while cats live in luxury doesn’t quite live up to the American ideals portrayed in movies like “It’s a Wonderful Life,”— one of my favorites. The question is how much can corporate directors channel George Bailey?

I’d love to hear your thoughts about this issue, or any topics you’d like us to cover. You can reach me at


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