Building to Endure: The Business Case for Stakeholder Value

What do tech companies that have a strong sense of mission and center stakeholder value look like? Can it exist at scale? Hear from founders who have built big and impactful businesses by taking a stakeholder value approach and how it has driven innovation and led more differentiated products and resilient businesses.

Rachel Romer and Josh Reeves, Co-Founders and CEOs of Guild Education and Gusto respectively, and Susan (“Suz”) Mac Cormac from Morrison Foerster LLP joined RIL Co-Founder Jon Zieger for a pointed discussion on stakeholder value. They dialed in on structures like the Public Benefit Corporation (PBC) for protecting a company’s mission and the importance of intentional, simple mechanisms like building a great team in service of a clear, shared mission that’s good for customers and business.

Key Takeaways:

  • Stakeholder value can be pursued in different structures. One example is the Public Benefit Corporation, which is legally obligated to protect the specific public benefit (mission) of the company even through a sale, new CEO, etc.
  • "Our business only does well when the three sides of our community do well. Our communities only do well when our business does well." - Rachel Romer
  • Single materiality means that a business considers its impact on business operations. Double materiality means that a business considers its impact on stakeholders, community, environment, etc.
  • “VC returns are way more reliant on GDP than on individual company alpha - so VCs need to act on systemic risks like climate change and societal inequality.” - Suz Mac Cormac
  • On values + problem solving, start with the problem you’re trying to solve and think of how employees contribute as stakeholders in what you’re building.
  • “Creating value for customers starts with having really values-aligned employees…We focus on the Minimum Lovable Product, instead of a MVP (minimum viable product).” - Josh Reeves

Supplementary Resources:

  1. American Worker Survey Report from Guild Education
  2. Why I converted to a PBC when Raising a $40M Series B — Aclima Case Study
  3. 2022 RISE Report from Gusto
  4. Patagonia Makes “Earth its only Shareholder”

Session Speakers

Susan Mac Cormac

Chair of Social Enterprise & Impact Investing Group & Co-Chair of Energy & Cleantech Group, Morrison & Foerster LLP

Susan Mac Cormac is a Partner at Morrison & Foerster LLP. Susan (“Suz”) chairs the firm’s Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG), Social Enterprise + Impact Investing, and Energy practices. Her practice focuses on late-stage financings, secondaries, and other corporate transactions for investors, such as SoftBank and Temasek, and on investments for some of the top investors dedicated to impact, from “impact first” foundations, to family offices, to private equity funds. She co-led the drafting group for the first of the new corporate forms (the Social Purpose Corporation in California), has created hybrid/tandem corporate structures and crafted debt and equity instruments that blend impact with traditional financial terms, and has used corporate law to develop creative capital market solutions to pressing environmental problems. She also advises the boards of public and private companies on corporate governance and fiduciary duties as applied to sustainability and climate change. She was named a California Lawyer Attorney of the Year (CLAY) in 2012 and 2016 by Daily Journal and the Most Innovative Lawyer in North America in 2015 by theFinancial Times.

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Josh Reeves

Co-Founder and CEO, Gusto

Josh is Co-Founder and CEO of Gusto, a startup that is reimagining HR, payroll, and benefits for modern companies. Josh believes in the power of software to solve complex problems.

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Rachel Romer

Co-Founder and CEO, Guild Education

Rachel Carlson is Co-Founder and CEO of Guild Education, which helps employers design and offer education-as-benefit programs that provide employees with individualized pathways to a degree and earn credit for on-the-job training. Selected as one of Forbes' 30-Under-30 for Education, Rachel has an MBA from the Stanford University Graduate School of Business and an MA in Education and a BA in Political Science from Stanford University.

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Jon Zieger

Co-Founder and Executive Director, Responsible Innovation Labs

Jon is Co-Founder and Executive Director of Responsible Innovation Labs. Previously, he was the General Counsel and Head of Global Policy at Stripe, where he oversaw all legal and policy affairs for the company and oversaw a team of experts to help Stripe expand globally, ensure compliance with global legal and regulatory requirements and strengthen the company’s ability to simplify complexities in the global financial system.

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