This isn’t the first time for the Business Roundtable. The organization representing the chief executives at the country’s largest companies declared in the early 1990s that corporations have a duty to “serve both their shareholders and society as a whole.” The Associated Press also noted this week the statement following the Great Recession about corporations having a responsibility to deal “in a fair and equitable manner” with employees, customers, suppliers and other constituencies.

What, then, to make of the statement issued on Monday, the Business Roundtable saying more expansively that corporations must be driven by something more than the “shareholder comes first”? The organization acknowledged that “many Americans are struggling,” that “too often hard work is not rewarded, and not enough is being done for workers to adjust to the rapid pace of change in the economy.” There was recognition that failing to act would invite “legitimate questions about the role of large employers in our society.”

The broader concern is income inequality, especially against the backdrop of a recent analysis by the Economic Policy Institute finding that chief executive compensation has increased 940 percent the past four decades, after adjusting for inflation. Today, the average pay for chief executives at the largest 350 companies is $14 million a year.

This has taken place as workers in many sectors have experienced stagnant wages.

How might chief executives express they are sincere? They could start by altering the practice of stock buybacks, a company repurchasing its own shares to bolster or push higher the stock price. Worth stressing is that chief executive compensation often is linked to share value. Stock buybacks have increased dramatically in recent years, corporations devoting more than $3 trillion to the repurchases from 2010 to 2017.

In 2018, the sum was $806 billion, a record. Moody’s reported that last year corporations devoted more funds to stock buybacks than debt payments, capital investment, dividends and research and development.

Thus, it follows that many companies have spent large portions of their profits on stock buybacks, some exceeding 100 percent, in such cases, borrowing or using reserves.

Some of the most revealing number-crunching has looked at stock buybacks in traditionally low-paying sectors. For instance, Walmart spent $6.5 billion a year on stock buybacks during a decade. That amount would be enough to cover an annual raise of $4,600 for each of its American workers. The National Employment Law Project and the Roosevelt Institute found that buybacks by Lowe’s, CVS and Home Depot from 2015 to 2017 would translate to annual pay increases of $18,000 for each worker.

At Starbucks, the result would be a raise of $7,000 a year.

There can be good reasons for stock buybacks, for instance, rewarding shareholders as a company advances, perhaps leading to investment in other firms on the rise. It also is true that for decades, starting in the New Deal era, buybacks were tightly restricted, regulators concerned about the risk of stock manipulation. That changed in the 1980s with the trend toward deregulation.

Now the idea would be to discourage excess, or at least find a way to compensate workers at the same time. U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown has a promising approach. The Ohio Democrat has proposed legislation that would create a “worker dividend,” employees getting a share of the revenue buybacks generate. A worker would receive $1 for every $1 million spent on stock buybacks. The formula is based on the profit-sharing regimen of the UAW and automakers.

That alone would not address fully income inequality. Such a step, or something like it, would signal the serious intent of the Business Roundtable.