World's biggest companies accept growing inequality as defining challenge

Topics G-7 summit | OECD | Emmanuel Macron

File photo of French President Emmanuel Macron
More than 30 of the world’s biggest companies signed on to an effort to spread the benefits of economic growth, saying that rising inequality is the “defining challenge of our time.”

The initiative, sponsored by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, is set to be unveiled by President Emmanuel Macron as he prepares to host the G7 summit this weekend in Biarritz, France. Participants include international giants such as JPMorgan Chase & Co., L’Oreal and Danone.

“The middle class is shrinking in most G7 countries, whereas it is the foundation of market economy around the world,” Danone Chairman Emmanuel Faber said in a statement announcing the agreement. “The result is that market economy will not last without more social justice.”

Companies including Virgin, Unilever and Goldman Sachs Group are expected to sign a pledge tomorrow saying they’ll support “inclusive growth.” The firms will agree to principles such as respect of freedom of association for labor, and support projects aimed at everything from increasing affordable housing to financing small business.

Once championed by Occupy Wall Street protesters, the notion of economic justice has become increasingly referenced in the offices of some of the world’s wealthiest companies. Earlier this week, 181 CEOs of the Business Roundtable put out a statement rejecting the notion that the primary purpose of the corporation is maximizing shareholder value.

Under Macron’s initiative, the likes of L’Oreal -- which counts Francoise Bettencourt Meyers, the world’s wealthiest woman, as a key shareholder -- and Danone are promising to make basic products more affordable and retrain employees to adapt to “the future of work.”

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