It’s now ten years since the global financial crisis. The reverberations are still being felt and the legacy is complex.
Yet one very simple question emerged in the wake of 2008: how do 21st-century corporations reconcile profit with purpose?
What started out as an apparently straightforward question a decade ago has developed into an investigation into the existential foundations of modern capitalism. Research led by Saïd Business School in collaboration with EY, the Ford Foundation and Mars Corporation is shedding new light on the concept of “purpose” – an idea that looks beyond the balance sheet to a broader and deeper role for business in society.
‘Purpose is a venerable idea, linked to culture, mission, values, and stewardship,’ says Dr Marc Ventresca, a professor in the Strategy, Innovation and Marketing faculty at Oxford Saïd. ‘But today executives link purpose to more basic strategy in complex contexts, specifically how to make key decisions that initiate transformation necessary for continued survival. This is not about the purpose of any one firm, but a conversation about the purpose of the corporation.’