Faculty & Research
Productive relationships are fundamental to enterprise. These include relationships within a corporation as well as between corporations and suppliers, consumers, and those reached through the corporation’s influence on markets, health, and the environment. Despite the fundamental, mutual interdependence of these stakeholders – the farmer and the buyer, the manager and the employee – the distribution of power, costs, and benefits in business across these relationships may be asymmetrical or even exploitative.
With this tension in mind, this project asks: How can businesses be more mutual? What happens when we focus on improving and deepening these relationships? Does this change how we should measure and understand the impacts of enterprise? How does this change how we define success? With human and natural resources under pressure around the world and increasing concern with inequality, there is a growing need for businesses to evaluate their impacts and energetically pursue how to make their relationships more broadly beneficial.
At this project’s core is mutuality – the quality of shared interests and reciprocal obligations. Mutuality is explored as a practical ethic that offers a new perspective on the corporation’s role in the world. In first recognising the fundamental interdependence of actors, the concept of mutuality encourages the examination of reciprocal obligations and how these relationships should be structured as to recognise, sustain, and grow the benefits to each party. The project defines mutuality as the aim to create lasting positive benefits across stakeholders through an organisation's activities.
In business, mutuality aims to distribute among all affected stakeholders a fair share of the positive benefits resulting from an organisation's activities. The project will seek to develop a business theory of mutuality, which will potentially provide an alternative to more traditional models of capitalism that currently dominate business thinking. Fundamentally, this project seeks to expand managerial focus beyond simple profit to take into account the full cost and potential benefit for society and the planet.
This project has been conceived and undertaken in collaboration with the Mars Corporation. The Oxford-based team is currently examining both the concept of mutuality and practices that embody this value, as well as exploring and supporting Mars’s efforts to increase and measure the mutuality of its business practices. The project seeks to articulate and disseminate both new conceptual and practical tools to help businesses across the globe become more mutual.
How do we re-frame the parameters that drive business forward in the 21st century?