The Ownership Project 1.0 at Oxford Saïd, 2018-2022

Driving responsible ownership in family business



This first phase of the Ownership Project completed its work in 2022.

Launched in 2018, Ownership Project 1.0 sought to empirically understand the impact of family ownership on businesses, communities and society - and the key factors that will shape sustainable ownership in the future.

Our work

We delivered independent analysis of the impact of ownership on business, society and the environment.

Key themes were:

  • Examining ownership for influence and impact
    • How owners influence their businesses
    • How these businesses in turn impact society.

Key research questions were:

  • How can long-term corporate commitments be governed effectively?
  • How can ownership and governance lock in corporate commitment to fulfil purpose beyond profit maximisation?
  • What role can owners play in responding to longer-term and emerging systemic risks?
  • What is the level of continuity across owners’ platforms e.g. philanthropy, investments, and core business(es)?
  • How do owners secure support for these arrangements from decision-makers including board members, senior management, and other shareholders?

Research Methodologies

  • Case studies of family firms
  • Participant observation of events; analysis of documents and archives
  • Executive interviews with principles of family businesses generating $1Bn + annual revenue
  • Large data set creation: 3000+ publicly listed companies, across different ownership types, analysing performance against environmental, social , and governance (ESG) measures


Work took a multi-disciplinary perspective on:

  • The role of "the responsible" or "engaged" business owner
  • Ownership and long-termism
  • Ownership and risks
  • Leadership in impact and systems change
  • Ownership and ESG
  • Ownership and Performance 

It is not how we spend money but how we make it that matters most. Business can be a force for good, as long as its purpose is not merely to make money but to serve the community and satisfy societal needs sustainably.

André Hoffmann

Vice-Chair, Roche Holdings I Family Advisory Council Member, Ownership Project at Oxford Saïd


The Impact and Activities Report 2018-2022 summarises the work done to connect large family businesses, participate in public discussions and produce an array of data to drive conversations within this community and the general public.

The founding team

  • Colin Mayer CBE FBA, Principal Investigator, Visiting Professor, Blavatnik School of Government and Emeritus Professor, Saïd Business School
  • Peter Tufano, Principal Investigator, Baker Foundation Professor, Harvard Business School and Emeritus Professor, Saïd Business School  
  • Mary Johnstone-Louis, Programme Director, Senior Fellow in Management Practice, Saïd Business School  
  • Bridget Kustin, Qualitative Research Lead, Senior Research Fellow and Director, The Ownership Project 2.0: Private Capital Owners & Impact
  • Belén Villalonga, Visiting Scholar, Professor of Management and Organisations, NYU  
  • Clarissa Hauptmann, Research Fellow, Senior Consultant, McKinsey & Co.
  • Boya Wang, Quantitative Lead, ESG Analyst EMEA, Morningstar

First Family Advisory Council, 2018-2022

Family business leaders who brought research into practice




Countries represented


Number of employees


$BN USD in revenue/AUM

Our first Family Advisory Council brought senior owners from family enterprises from across the globe together to establish pathways towards responsible ownership.

The Council met as a group and in regular one-to-one sessions with our researchers to test our ideas and ensure that our insights were disseminated to the people holding the levers enabling change.

This is possibly the only place where I have found the topic of the long-term purpose of ownership to be regularly tackled. To be a part of this discussion at a time when companies are so challenged is very positive.

Luca Garavoglia

Chairman, Davide Campari-Milano NV I Family Advisory Council Member Ownership Project at Oxford Saïd

Insights into responsible ownership

Senior Research Fellow and Qualitative Lead Bridget Kustin crafted a toolkit, initiating bold steps for businesses-owning families who would like to be responsible owners and create businesses that provide solutions to the world’s challenges. It outlines entry points, milestones and bridges for families and their businesses as they move towards greater responsibility.

By offering an anthropological view of the stories family businesses tell themselves about themselves, this toolkit provides strategies to transform aspirations into concrete steps towards responsible ownership.

Oxford conversations on ownership

We spoke to the owners behind some of the world’s best-known companies to find out what responsible ownership really meant to them.

We asked how they ensure a sustainable operation for the long-term, how they balance the needs of the family, their stakeholders and their shareholders against society's great and most pressing challenges, and what success looks like across generations.

Newsletters and community


  • Peter Tufano

Business in times of crisis(opens in new window)

  • Journal article
  • Oxford Review of Economic Policy
  • Mary Johnstone-Louis,
  • Bridget Kustin,
  • Colin Mayer,
  • Judith Stroehle,
  • Boya Wang


  • Journal article
  • Robert G Eccles,
  • Mary Johnstone-Louis,
  • Colin Mayer,
  • Judith C Stroehle
See more publications

Our partner

*Participation in our research, teaching, or convening does not imply our endorsement of any particular individual or group.