By Michael O'Leary & Warren Valdmanis
This provocative book takes us inside the fight to save capitalism from itself.
Corporations are broken, reflecting no purpose deeper than profit. But the tools we are relying on to fix them—corporate social responsibility, divestment, impact investing, and government control—risk making our problems worse.
With lively storytelling and careful analysis, O’Leary and Valdmanis cut through the tired dogma of current economic thinking to reveal a hopeful truth: If we can make our corporations accountable to a deeper purpose, we can make capitalism both prosperous and good.
What happens when the sustainability-driven CEO of Unilever takes on the efficiency-obsessed Warren Buffett? Does Kellogg’s—a company founded to serve a healthy breakfast—have a sacred duty to sell sugary cereal if that’s what maximizes profit? For decades, government has tried to curb CEO pay but failed. Why? Can Harvard students force the university to divest from oil and gas? Does it even matter if they do?
O’Leary and Valdmanis, two iconoclastic investors, take us on a fast-paced insider’s journey that will change the way we look at corporations. Likely to spark controversy among cynics and dreamers alike, Accountable is essential reading for anyone with a stake in reforming capitalism—which means all of us.
Alice Martell on Pulbisher's Weekly wrote:
"Investors Michael O’Leary and Warren Valdmanis have written a prescription to cure what ails our capitalist society in a new book that is easier to swallow than most bitter-pill business tomes. [...] The authors, pictured on the book jacket in standard blue blazers, are not closet socialists bent on subverting capitalism. Instead, they suggest corporations — and the rest of us — would be better off pursuing long-term sustainability rather than quarterly profits. The heart of the problem is “fiduciary absolutism” — a cultish mantra that maintains corporations exist solely to maximize shareholder value. [...] The book proposes creating corporations that live up to common values, those held by typical individual investors. It suggests rechartering corporations around purpose, holding them accountable and assuring the purpose is profitable. While some may say that is impossible, there is evidence that companies that get the formula right are also the best investments in 2020."
"Investors O’Leary and Valdmanis debut with a well-informed and idealistic call for a more ethical version of capitalism. The authors identify two competing visions for the American economy—a short-term profit-driven model in which corporations are beholden only to shareholders versus a stakeholder framework in which the concerns of customers, employees, and local communities are taken into account—and contend that the true measure of capitalism is its ability to lift people out of poverty. [...] Though the idea that Fortune 500 companies can be nudged to self-regulate will strike many readers as overly optimistic, O’Leary and Valdmanis offer an astute record of American capitalism’s best and worst qualities. Business owners and MBA students will value this helpful guide."
Discussion about Accountable with the Authors
- "An ESG Reckoning Is Coming" - article by the authors in the Harvard Business Review, 4 March 2021
- "Capitalism must be saved by capitalists, argue these pioneering ESG investors" - interview with the authors at Fortune, 15 November 2020
- "'We've misdrawn the battle lines of capitalism:' A founding member of Bain's social impact fund shares what really needs to be done to make stakeholder capitalism work" - interview with co-author O'Leary at Business Insider, 5 October 2020
- "Business As Usual?" - interview with co-author O'Leary by Visible Hands, 20 August 2020
- "Author Q&A: Accountable: The Rise of Citizen Capitalism" - interview at This Is Capitalism, date unknown.
About Michael O'Leary & Warren Valdmanis
Michael O’Leary is a managing director at the investment firm Engine No. 1. Previously, he was on the founding team of Bain Capital’s social impact fund and invested in consumer, industrial, and technology companies through Bain Capital’s private equity fund. He’s been featured in Bloomberg, Fortune, Vox, the Financial Times, Business Insider, HuffPost, and MarketWatch, among others. Michael has served as an economic policy advisor in the United States Senate and on two presidential campaigns. He studied philosophy at Harvard College and earned his MBA from the Stanford Graduate School of Business. He lives in New York.
Warren Valdmanis is a partner with Two Sigma Impact, a private equity fund that invests in companies that generate good jobs. He was previously a managing director with Bain Capital’s social impact fund, and before that invested with Bain Capital’s private equity team for over a decade. He grew up in Canada and has lived and worked in Australia, Chile, France, Hong Kong, Japan, South Africa, and the United States. Warren studied economics at Dartmouth College and earned his MBA from Harvard Business School. He lives with his wife Kristin and four children in Portland, Maine.
Table of Contents of Accountable
- Introduction: Saving Capitalism from Itself - Division, Despair and Dividends in Corporate America
- Chalk One Up for the Good Guys - Two Conflicting Visions for Our Economy
- Making a Killing - Why Food Companies Don't Nourish Us
- Good News and Bad News - The Capitalist Driver, Asleep at the Switch
- Fighting for Corporate Social Responsibility - From Superficial Window Dressing to Real Accountability
- Hear No Evil, See No Evil - Divestment, Engagement and an Existential Crisis
- We're Going to Need a Bigger Boat - The Almost Ascendance of Impact Investment
- Dividend Against Ourselves - Government and the Limits of Control
- The $23 Trillion Solution - Repurposing Our Corporations
- Citizen Capitalism - Rebuilding Trust and Realizing the Common Good
- Epilogue: A Capitalist Reformation - Cathedral Thinking for Our Time