By Massimo Getto, Vice President & CFO VIASAT GROUP and Marco Laugero, AFC Controller VIASAT GROUP
In September 1970, New York Magazine published an article by Milton Friedman, who would be awarded the Nobel Prize for Economics only six years later. In the article, Friedman argues that managers actually are the shareholders’ agents, and their ultimate and exclusive purpose is tomaximize the shareholders’ earnings. Any investment in social or sustainability objectives would inevitably reduce shareholder earnings, with the aggravating factor of essentially determining a form of taxation without having the right to do so, which deeply contradicts the constituent principles of the American Constitution. In 2018, BlackRock CEO Larry Fink wrote in his letter of introduction to the Annual Report: “We emphasize the social impact that our business has, and we strive to make a positive contribution to the world in which we operate, to the environment and communities we call home, to our customers and workers”. Reading the intervention line by line, it appears evident that BlackRock’s strategic approach is to stop investing in companies which do not put sustainability at the heart of their business and which do not prioritize a type of communication that is consistent with this approach. These two stances are poles apart, and almost half a century apart as well. This emerging phenomenon tends to bring together economy and society within the company itself. As a consequence, social capacity is not just a cost, but becomes the stepping stone from which to increase profits and achieve the management objective outlined by Friedman – shareholder profit maximization, as a derivative of what should be the real goal for those who have the honour of leading a company: the creation of value for the company itself. The creation of value for an entity that produces positive externalities by addressing the needs of all stakeholders. This is no longer a niche theme for idealists – as it might have been in 1970 at the time of the publication of Friedman’s article – but rather a beacon we can use to direct our navigation in coming years, allowing our companies to create value, grow and attract investments. In the framework of corporate communication, Sustainability Reports will gain more and more strength and importance not just as purely legal obligations, but as the main tools to achieve sustainable value creation-oriented communication. This is the spirit that led us tomake our sustainability report even more accessible and consistent with the communication needs of a fast-growing Group.