When I was a CCO, helping my company make a commitment to “stakeholder capitalism” was straightforward. The proposition that great companies create value for customers and employees and investors and society was never debated.

What wasn’t so clear was this: Aside from communicating a narrative about our company’s purpose and managing the occasional hot-button stakeholder issue, what meaningful role could my team and I play in actually creating value for stakeholders? Also, sitting on my company’s executive committee for several years, I experienced firsthand the tyranny of trade-offs that could ensnare us as we grappled with competing stakeholder interests. Surely, there had to be an alternative to the zero-sum game.

That’s why I didn’t hesitate when I had an opportunity at Yale to take on a research project looking into the ‘how’ of stakeholder capitalism. (I had become an Executive Fellow at Yale School of Management following my retirement from IBM in 2019.) Starting shortly before the pandemic, my faculty colleagues and I began interviewing CEOs. We asked them:

  • Why are so many CEOs talking about stakeholder capitalism and ESG now?
  • You’re being called on to speak out on climate change, immigration, guns, etc. How do you determine the ‘materiality’ of issues and opportunities?
  • When confronted with competing or conflicting stakeholder interests, what do you do? Make intelligent trade-offs, or are there other approaches?
  • Financial measurements and metrics have been around forever. How do you ensure that your commitments to non-financial outcomes are built into your management systems?
  • What skills, methods and tools could help professionals and leaders so they are not only committed to stakeholder capitalism/ESG, but also expert in it? What’s missing?

To date, we’ve interviewed more than 110 CEOs and CxOs, including leaders of American Express, Bank of America, Equinor, Mastercard, Nike, PepsiCo, Prada, Starbucks, UPS, Merck, Rio Tinto, Walmart and Warby Parker. Several agreed to develop case studies with us. And our learnings and work have become the foundation of the Yale Program on Stakeholder Innovation & Management, which I co-lead with Professors Ravi Dhar and Ted Snyder.

The CEOs we spoke with had a lot to say, with a striking consistency about what they identified as missing within their organizations. And this is what excites me: I believe much of the gap can be filled by the CCO – if the CCO and the communications team build new capabilities.

That’s why Page collaborated with us to develop a certificate program for CCOs. The  Page/Yale CCO Leadership in Multistakeholder Value Creation Certificate Program draws upon what we learned, and it will incorporate some of the new case studies we’ve developed. Of course, the program will also leverage the world-class faculty at Yale School of Management.  

In most respects the program will not be familiar to CCOs – by design. We will not explore crisis management, discuss the headlines of the day, examine the changing media and influencer landscape. CCOs and their teams are already experts in these areas. Nor will we offer a “mini-MBA” course to enhance business acumen. You can get that from many providers. This certificate program presents and builds new capabilities specific to the CCO’s role – new dimensions of management science, new aspects of design and innovation, and new leadership skills.

I hope my colleagues at Page will find this of value. And I trust they will see this as an investment in themselves and their futures. I look forward to seeing many of you at the inaugural class at Yale School of Management this February.

Registration is now open. Learn more here.