What can women do to change how Capitalism works?

Dame Barbara Stocking asks three women:
 How have you changed capitalism for the better?

Dame Pauline Green

Green has spent much of her career promoting the co-operative model of doing business, which she believes presents a template for a more inclusive form of capitalism.

Describing the worldwide movement as “a huge industry, made up mostly of very small groups”, Green firmly believes that the underlying purpose of co-operatives hasn’t changed since they were first founded:

“Constitutionally, co-ops are created to serve the needs of their members, which means that co- ops put people at the heart of their decision-making.”

She adds: “Of course they need to make profits - or surpluses - but not to the detriment of members‟ needs. For me this is a crucial factor in wanting to work in this movement.”

Natasha Landell-Mills

As Head of Stewardship for the London-based asset management company Sarasin and Partners, Landell-Mills has been at the heart of a drive to change practice, placing “considerable emphasis on doing our bit to make capitalism work better for society.”

She identifies three main areas of activity:

  • Taking account of the longer term impacts (including environmental, social and governance) of companies, when investing clients‟ assets. 

  • Emphasising ownership by engaging with the boards of companies in which clients have invested. 

  • Identifying opportunities to influence policy and catalyse positive change.

Addressing policy is the most relevant in the context of improving capitalism, says Landell-Mills: “As managers on behalf of our clients assets we are not just interested in outperforming a benchmark which has dominated the industry for many years, we are also interested in raising all boats. 

Julia Rebholz

Experience in business has shaped Julia Rebholz‟s perspective, leading her to change some of her views along the way.

In her first role with the energy giant, Centrica, she worked on a number of acquisitions in Europe. In line with standard practice then, Rebholz explains: “All of these acquisitions were assessed; they had a value attributed to them and they met the hurdle rate, and then my job was to implement their integration.”

She describes the company’s approach as focussing “very much around the processes, the systems, the tools the structures.”

“The newly acquired companies would deliver accretive earnings in the first couple of years and then we would fold them into their mother businesses,” she says. “We wouldn’t be able to uncover whether they delivered long term benefits or not, but they delivered in the short term.”

Rebholz felt increasingly uncomfortable with this approach. At the end of a phase of acquisitions in the UK, she asked to go the US, where the company had made 12 recent acquisitions, none of which had yet been integrated.

“There was a huge opportunity,” she says.

“I took a deep breath and asked my boss: ‘can I take a different approach?’”

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