What Is a People-First Economy?

  • August 29, 2019

A monumental shift is happening now in corporations. The Business Roundtable – which includes America’s top CEOs such as Tim Cook of Apple, Mary Barra of General Motors, and Brian Boynihan of Bank of America – say they will no longer put shareholders above everyone else.

The New York Times describes the movement as “breaking with decades of long-held corporate orthodoxy.” In a recent Fast Company op-ed by Jay Coen Gilbert—one of the cofounders of the B-Corporation movement—he said, “It’s a significant sign of our shifting culture that the country’s largest corporations and the organization representing their interests are revising their definition of the purpose of the corporation from profit maximization to leading their companies “for the benefit of all stakeholders—customers, employees, suppliers, communities and shareholders.”

The question is: what does this shift mean for not just leaders, but also regular employees looking to make this People-First movement a reality within their own organizations? How do we learn the exact tools, ideas, and processes needed to create an economy that works for all?

Research shows that purpose-driven, diverse, and inclusive workplaces achieve higher levels of creativity, innovation, employee satisfaction, and yes, profit. Progressive organizations that are investing in healthy people and the planet hold the greatest potential to shape the 21st-century economy, where everybody matters and everybody wins. The People-First movement is a response to the outcry against corporate greed and an unjust economic playing field. In order to fully address the complex problems born out of economic inequality—such as climate change, racial injustice, gender disparity, and a lack of representation and inclusion of all people in the workplace—leaders, managers, stakeholders, employees, and community members at all levels must commit to putting people first.

Those working in progressive businesses and organizations know this to be true, and yet we all struggle to make the change we hope to see in the world a reality. That’s why we’ve teamed up with organizations like B Lab (the nonprofit behind the B Corp Movement), Conscious Capitalism, and the Social Venture Circle—for an incredible 10-day online event: The People-First Economy Online Summit.

This online event is produced hosted by Dr. Tiffany Jana, global diversity and inclusion expert, author, and founder of TMI Consulting; Raj Sisodia, founding member of the Conscious Capitalism movement; and myself, CEO and CFO of Berrett-Koehler Publishers. Learn more about the insight, tools, and best practices that you'll gain during the People-First Economy Online Summit from Tiffany and Raj in the following video:


Our hosts  will bring you wisdom, experience, and real-world solutions from more than 30 leaders, activists, and organizations on the front lines of the People-First movement to help you make theories of change a reality.

The People-First Economy Online Summit includes over 25 instructional videos from leading experts, including John Mackey, Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield of Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream, and Miki Agrawal of THINX.

We’re hosting this summit to begin a dialogue about what makes a successful business in the 21st century. This mission has led us into uncharted territory, but we’re excited by the opportunity to continue work with change-makers around the world that are leading the charge in advancing equity-for-all. And we’re also committed to measuring the impact of our efforts. One of the Berrett-Koehler books that have made the most impact in developed countries in the last few years is The Shareholder Value Myth, by the recently departed Lynn Stout. From her Cornell Law School pulpit, she debunked the myth that C-Suite executives should be optimizing value only for shareholders at the expense of all stakeholders—and now the Business Roundtable has come around. If she were alive today, there would be a warm glow in her heart for the impact her book has made.

But we’ve still got a long way to go.

We invite you to join the movement to build the economy of the future.

Summit lasts September 16th-26th

Learn People-First business practices to:

  • Drive greater purpose, innovation, and profit—and have a positive impact on the world
  • Build stronger, more authentic relationships with employees, customers, partners, and community
  • Create an atmosphere of inclusivity and belonging in your organization
  • Discover real-world solutions for driving equitable, sustainable, and profitable organizations
  • Transform your organization for the better using strategies that you can put into practice today
  • Lead change and maximize your impact, even when you aren’t in charge
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