Vatican Joins Moynihan, Benioff to Push for Economic Equality

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The Vatican said it’s joining Bank of America Corp.’s Brian Moynihan, Salesforce.com Inc.’s Marc Benioff and about 25 other leaders in an effort to create “a more equitable and sustainable economic system.”

The Council for Inclusive Capitalism with the Vatican is comprised of executives, who collectively run companies employing 200 million workers in 163 countries. The group will meet annually with Pope Francis and Cardinal Peter Turkson, who oversees the Vatican’s Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, according to a statement posted Tuesday.

“An economic system that is fair, trustworthy, and capable of addressing the most profound challenges facing humanity and our planet is urgently needed,” the pope said in the statement. The newly created council will take on the challenge “by seeking ways to make capitalism become a more inclusive instrument for integral human wellbeing,” he said.

Despite global economic growth over the past few decades, business leaders have been slow to address the widespread disparities in wealth, race and gender. Under pressure from shareholders, customers and employees, they’ve started to confront those inequities. For example, BlackRock Inc., the world’s largest asset manager, has said sustainability is a top investment priority, while Citigroup Inc. has vowed to spend $1 billion to help close the racial income gap. And last year, the Business Roundtable, which represents some of the largest U.S. corporations, said companies should consider all their stakeholders, not just generate profits for themselves and investors.

Members of the Vatican’s council include BP Plc Chief Executive Officer Bernard Looney, William Lauder of Estee Lauder Cos., Visa Inc. CEO Alfred Kelly, Fiona Ma, the treasurer for the state of California, and Mark Carney, the former governor of the Bank of England. Chiefs from companies, including Mastercard Inc. and Johnson & Johnson, and organizations such as the Rockefeller and Ford foundations also will sit on the council.

Marcie Frost, CEO of the California Public Employees’ Retirement System, likens the council to the work done by Climate Action 100+, an initiative that seeks to put pressure on the world’s largest polluters. She said the council will hold companies accountable for their public commitments on everything from racial diversity to reducing carbon emissions.

“Being aspirational doesn’t mean much over time,” Frost said in a telephone interview. “We want to make sure companies are executing specific commitments,” she said, adding that data is vital in holding businesses to account and them achieving their goals.

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