Board members need to rethink what they are doing in those rooms, and here individual directors' guiding principle should be the "veil of ignorance" proposed by the political philosopher John Rawls in his 1971 treatise A Theory of Justice. Rawls proposed the veil of ignorance as a way to derive principles of social justice to which anyone who did not know in advance their identity and position in society would consent.
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How would the veil of ignorance work in a boardroom? Board directors' role is not simply to ensure return on investment; it is also to make decisions with due consideration for the community, employees, suppliers, consumers, and even the overall economy. The decisions made in that room have an impact beyond the company, so it is not just shareholders who hold board members accountable for their choices.
In order for board directors and senior executives to make judicious decisions, they cannot think only about whether they will directly benefit. As in Rawls, if we imagined that we did not know who we are or where we stand in society – whether we are rich or poor, male or female, young or old, CEO or shop-floor worker – our decisions would be more ethically grounded. The veil of ignorance changes the nature of the discussion on almost every issue, from executive pay, wage discrepancies, and working conditions to long-term strategy, succession planning, and much more.