Corporate purpose in theory, law and practice
To facilitate a constructive and nuanced debate on the role and relevance of corporate purpose, Daughters of Themis: International Network of Female Business Scholars is organising this full-day virtual conference.
The conference is open for all, including students. Please register your participation below.
The recurring discussion of corporate purpose
What is the purpose of a company? Shareholder primacy thinking has popularised the understanding that there is no need to discuss what a corporation’s purpose is or whether it has a societal responsibility. The contractual nature of the corporation as a ‘nexus of contracts’ is claimed to remove that question from the field. Yet, recurring discussions show that many academics, the corporate world, and civil society – and increasingly also policy-makers – are dissatisfied with this restricted view.
The significance of the current interest in corporate purpose is underlined by the growing evidence of the continuing unsustainable ways of doing business, with increasing pressure on planetary boundaries, resource scarcity, human rights violations, rising inequality and societal instability.
Beyond the shareholder versus stakeholder divide
In the often Anglo-American inspired perspective, there has been a tendency in public discourse to divide the world up into shareholder and stakeholder models. This serves to restrict the debate to a perceived binary choice between shareholders and stakeholders. However, this does not engage with the plurality of approaches in company laws across the world and the rich variety of business approaches. Moreover, the sustainability challenges society faces in the 21st century call for an open-minded re-investigation of the purpose of companies in our societies.
Kinanya Pijl, Victoria Baumfield, Anne-Christin Mittwoch and Beate Sjåfjell