The Ownership Project at Oxford Saïd, 2018-2022

Driving responsible ownership in family business

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The Ownership Project launched its next phase: 'The Ownership Project 2.0: Private Capital Owners & Impact' in March 2023. While our new website is under construction, you can read about our work 2018-22 here. For updates on our future activities, follow The Ownership Project on LinkedIn or subscribe to our mailing list. Please write to ownership@sbs.ox.ac.uk or our Director, Bridget Kustin with general inquiries. 

Impact and activities report 2018-2022

This report summarises the activities undertaken by The Ownership Project to connect large family businesses to each other, participate in public discussions, and produce an array of data to drive conversations within this community and the general public.

The future of ownership

An estimated 70% of global businesses are family-owned. Our research, teaching, and global conversations bring responsibility and sustainability to their core.

How do family businesses become resilient for the future?

Responsible ownership is the future of family businesses. A fairer, stronger, more innovative economy calls for new frameworks for large asset owners – including family businesses. Families steering some of the biggest companies in the world control specific tools to benefit people and the planet, including concentrated ownership, investment vehicles, and philanthropic platforms. These enable family owners to steward their business responsibly, making sure it is sustainable in the long-term. Owners have the potential of becoming powerful catalysts for change by setting their vision of the future as the guiding principle for their business.

The project provides a platform for knowledge generation and dissemination. We seek to empirically understand the impact of ownership on businesses, communities, and society — and the key factors shaping sustainable ownership in the future.

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

Our work

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

Key themes:

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

Key research questions:

  • 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 eg 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?

Our Family Advisory Council helps us translate our research insights into practical tools for business owners.

Our 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

Family Advisory Council, 2018-2022

Family business leaders bringing research into practice

29

Members

17

Countries represented

+686,000

Number of employees

+224

$BN USD in revenue/AUM

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

The Council meets as a group and in regular one-to-one sessions with our researchers. The role of the Council is to test our ideas and ensure that our insights are 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 Dr Bridget Kustin has crafted this toolkit to initiate 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 speak to the owners behind some of the world’s best-known companies to find out what responsible ownership really means to them, as business leaders and owners.

As owners how do they ensure a sustainable operation for the long-term? How do they balance the needs of the family, their stakeholders, and their shareholders, against society's great and most pressing challenges and what does success look like across generations?

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