Oren Cass presses Business Roundtable on corporate responsibility pledge

Oren Cass, executive director of the conservative think tank American Compass, pressed Business Roundtable (BRT) to take further action on the one-year anniversary of its pledge to promote corporate responsibility and protect workers.

Cass, who directed domestic policy for Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah)’s 2012 presidential campaign, told Hill.TV that his organization has partnered with conservative and liberal think tanks to demand BRT live up to its 2019 promise to prioritize all stakeholders, including employees, customers and communities, rather than promote shareholder primacy.

“There hasn’t really been any follow through” from BRT, Cass said. “It seems to, like most corporate social responsibility, have been more an exercise in public relations than actually making a difference for workers or families or communities.”

The BRT is an association of CEOs from major U.S. companies.

Cass said there is reason to be cautiously optimistic that CEOs will take a different approach from their historical position of being anti-regulation at all costs. He pointed to Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi’s New York Times op-ed admitting gig workers, like drivers, are treated unfairly by corporations and asking for public policy to mandate companies across the industry provide benefits.

Uber has been embroiled in legal battles over labor laws that would force them to classify their drivers as employees instead of contractors.

“We’re not surprised that a bunch of CEOs signing a letter hasn’t accomplished much,” Cass said. “But what we’d like to see, and where the Roundtable could really make a big difference, is actually businesses coming together and saying look, we’re going to constrain ourselves.”