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CEO's dilemma

I’m enjoying the news that’s coming out of the so called ‘Paradise Papers’ where we, the tax paying majority get to pillory the elite tax-avoiders who have just had all their dirty dealings made public via leaked offshore tax avoidance data.

I pay all my business taxes because I believe in paying money to the central pot that educates the next generation, cleans up our waste, treats our illnesses and so on. Also, no-one from the Cayman Islands seemed very interested in my TSB savings.

However, I can’t help thinking that the job of the CEO and CFO is a pretty uncomfortable one in the light of the latest financial shenanigans,

As a company director with shareholders, the CEO has a legal duty to safeguard the value of the company. The obligation to be a good world citizen and practice corporate social responsibility usually resides in the vision of the individual CEO but doing any more than the legal minimum can mean acting against the requirement to increase profits.

The Harvard Business Review rankings of the best CEO’s now measures a company’s environmental, social and governance performance as well as financials, which is why Bezos is languishing at number 71 rather than number 1 where Amazon's financial performance alone would put him.

So, do these new measurements mean that are we moving into a bright future of good corporate citizens looking after the environment and lifting the needy out of poverty?

Hardly.

ESG still accounts for only 20% of the HBR score and every CEO knows his or her primary function is to create value, it’s just more complicated than it used to be.

The really good guys are the ones we should all try to emulate, they try to treat everyone well and pay more than lip service to social responsibility. They're easy to identify - they pay their taxes.

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