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Why Lynn Forester de Rothschild is pushing for inclusive capitalism

It would seem ironic to find an ally of inclusive capitalism in the person of a self-made magnate, especially when the system that needs to be changed is the one that helped them succeed. But for Lady Lynn Forester de Rothschild, accepting that something is flawed is a crucial step towards doing the right thing. In fact, she is not only a supporter, but a lead crusader for capitalism that is good for all.

Her realization that the free-market economy has been benefitting only the already wealthy ones, eventually led her to establishing the Council for Inclusive Capitalism, a global not-for-profit organization which develops groundbreaking initiatives with leaders across the private, public and civic sectors to catalyze actions that transform capitalism and make economies and societies more inclusive, dynamic, sustainable, and trusted.


Growing wealth inequality 

Ms. Rothschild was born to a middle-class family in New Jersey. She graduated magna cum laude and beta kappa from Pomona College in Claremont, California and from Columbia University School of Law, with a Juris Doctor degree with honors as Harlen Fiske Stone Scholar.

She began her career in 1980 practicing corporate law, and eventually led various companies. She is the chief executive of E.L. Rothschild LLC, a family office with interests in private companies, public markets and real estate. She is a member of the board of directors and Nominating & ESG Committee of The Estee Lauder Companies. 

In an interview with this columnist, Ms. Rothschild admitted that when she was starting, her belief was that she only needed to focus on her career and be a good active citizen, and that would make the world good for everyone.

It was during the great financial crisis when she fully realized that society was not working the way she thought it should. 

“The world really wasn’t working for many people. The world was working for people with capital, but not for working people. It became a concern of mine in the context of the definition of our whole capitalist system,” she explained.


Advocating for inclusive capitalism

Her crusade began when she was asked to co-chair a task force to look at capitalism under siege.

Together with Dominic Barton, who was then chairman of McKinsey, they produced a report on inclusive capitalism, held a conference that centered on the report, and eventually set up the Council for Inclusive Capitalism.

The goal is to make capitalism work for everyone, as it should have been from the start. The Council’s vision is for companies to create long-term value for all stakeholders, guided by an approach that provides equality of opportunity for all people to pursue prosperity and quality of life; equitable outcomes for those who have the same opportunities and seize them in the same way; fairness across generations; and fairness to those in society whose circumstances prevent them from full participation in the economy.

From starting with 19 CEOs, the Council now has 574 organizations that have made pledges to inclusive capitalism, including actionable commitments that advance the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). 

Moreover, they have created the Just Energy Transition framework that helps companies move to clean energy in a way that decreases inequality. In order for decabornization to be just, the Council encourages that the transition must be guided by the following principles: sustainable future for all, fair and decent work, worker rights and social dialogue, community-specific approach, social consensus and due participation, diversity and inclusion, and collaboration and transparency.


Giving back 

Ms. Rothschild admits that there is still a long way to go in this journey towards inclusive capitalism. But she sees optimism in the fact that today’s generation of young leaders are thinking about how to have a career that creates a better environment for all. 

For a very successful woman her age, Ms. Rothschild should already be enjoying a relaxed life, savoring the fruits of her decades of hard work. But she tells me, “I’ve always felt like, when you’re blessed, you need to give something back.”

So she goes on to help others with their careers, with their businesses, or even with their thinking. And through her crusade for a capitalism that works for all, she is able to spread positivity and inspire people to think about the greater good. 

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