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Better Business Makes the Greater Good
What is business for? Day one of a business course will tell you: it is to maximise shareholder profit. This single idea pervades all our thinking and teaching about business around the world but it is fundamentally wrong, Colin Mayer argues. It has had disastrous and damaging consequences for our economies, environment, politics, and societies.
In this urgent call for reform, Prosperity challenges the fundamentals of business thinking. It sets out a comprehensive new agenda for establishing the corporation as a unique and powerful force for promoting economic and social wellbeing in its fullest sense - for customers and communities, today and in the future.
First Professor and former Dean of the Said Business School in Oxford, Mayer is a leading figure in the global discussion about the purpose and role of the corporation. In Prosperity, he presents a radical and carefully considered prescription for corporations, their ownership, governance, finance, and regulation. Drawing together insights from business, law, economics, science, philosophy, and history, he shows how the corporation can realize its full potential to contribute to
economic and social wellbeing of the many, not just the few.
Prosperity tells us not only how to create and run successful businesses but also how policy can get us there and fix our broken system.
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What Reviewers Are Saying
One of the most pressing questions facing the world today is 'What is the role of the corporation in society?' Thanks to Professor Colin Mayer we now have a definitive answer: the corporation's role is to fulfill its purpose. In an intellectual and very readable tour de force, Professor Mayer brings to bear an astonishing range of academic disciplines to present a very practical framework for how company's need to be managed today. For their own sake and the sake of
us all. * Robert Eccles, Founding Chairman of the Sustainability Accounting Standards Board and Professor of Management Practice, University of Oxford * Prosperity makes a limpidly clear and convincing case for an urgent re-think of the role of business in society. The fifty years since Friedman gave the doctrine of 'shareholder value' totemic significance have seen the interests of proprietors, governments and communities diverge. This has produced unacceptable inequalities in outcomes and shocking destruction of the environment. The arguments Colin makes for radical reform of the role of the corporation in
society are compelling, and rooted in common sense and fairness. I hope that many others involved in defining the purpose of their businesses learn as much from Prosperity as I have. * Peter Norris, Chairman of Virgin Group * This is a timely and highly insightful treatise on the urgent need to revisit today's misguided and simplistic views on the purpose of the corporation. It is a significant contribution addressing the growing economic and social challenges confronting us today. * Cyrus Ardelan, Chairman, Citigroup Global Markets Ltd * With characteristic courage and purposeful passion, Mayer challenges the status quo as to who corporations serve and benefit. Prosperity presents a paradigm shift, revealing tomorrow's corporation today. It marks the start of a new age of enlightenment, which will stimulate the sensibilities of all who care about the role of business in society. * Guy Jubb, former Global Head of Governance and Stewardship, Standard Life Investments * Colin Mayer has elevated the conversation about business and society. Bold enough to reimagine an economic system, specific enough to drive action, Prosperity introduces the higher-order thinking necessary to build a more Inclusive Capitalism. * Lynn Forester de Rothschild, CEO of E.L. Rothschild and the Coalition for Inclusive Capitalism * The financial crisis and its aftermath called for answers - questions were raised instead. Our corporate and political environments have been severely shaken for more than a decade. We have to find new approaches and look for better answers to bring our social market economies into balance. Colin Mayer relentlessly challenges conventional wisdom, combining diverse academic fields and bringing business to meet academia. Prosperity is building on a wealth of
research looking at the broader picture and its many corners to seek appropriate answers to the challenges of our world. Is 'purpose first, prosperity follows' the answer? * Daniela Weber-Rey, non-executive director of HSBC Trinkaus & Burkhardt and Fnac-Darty * Businesses have a duty to do well by stakeholders as well as shareholders. How did too many corporations lose their sense of purpose? What is the right path to build responsible, sustainable relationships with society? This insight-rich book offers a comprehensive guide for restoring trust between companies, consumers, and communities. Professor Mayer makes a compelling argument that the purpose and values of modern corporations have been diluted and it will take
the work of executives, legislators, regulators, bankers, investors, and even shareholders to fix. * Dominic Barton, Global Managing Partner Emeritus, McKinsey & Company * Rarely in the history of economics and law does a person observe the current state of the world, recognize its deficiencies, and put forth a policy and paradigm that is destined to change the world. John Maynard Keynes in the twenties and thirties and now Colin Mayer are prime examples. This book is destined to be the "bible" of the Mayer-Paradigm of corporate governance and the template for the policy changes that are necessary to implement it. * Martin Lipton, Senior Partner Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz * A wonderful manifesto for change and essential reading for any who remain to be convinced that business can - and should - be a force for a societal good. One of the most insightful and comprehensive accounts yet of how - and why - the corporation needs to change if it is to meet the needs and expectations of a new era. Thoughtful and well-argued, Mayer has done the cause of enlightened capitalism great service. * Paul Polman, CEO, Unilever * In his humane and readable book, Colin Mayer makes a compelling case for a new concept of the corporation, and the need to treat corporate purpose as far more than shareholder value. In showing how restoring trust is key to a true future prosperity, it will reframe much of our thinking on this central subject. * The Hon. Mr Justice William Blair, High Court Judge of England and Wales. * Here is the case for reinventing the corporation so that it serves human well-being. Colin Mayer shows both why an exclusive focus on shareholder value is damaging, and how purposeful changes could support trustworthy corporations that combine social and business benefits. * Baroness Onora O'Neill of Bengarve, Emeritus Professor of Philosophy, University of Cambridge * Our world does not have long for business to escape its 40 year-long capture by the Chicago school. This book is an historic milestone in economic theory because it marks the final nail in Milton Friedman's intellectual coffin. It does this by illuminating a pragmatic pathway for business and policy makers to follow, to escape an anachronistic orthodoxy that is killing our beautiful planet and our precious communities. They must study it closely and then move fast,
so that we all - and those who come after us - might avoid calamity and, instead, prosper. * James Perry, Chairman of Cook * A powerful reply to the steadily increasing criticism of free market business... So far, the defenders of capitalism have failed to find a convincing voice or to offer any significant ways to improve how business is perceived. Now Colin Mayer provides answers and a coherent manifesto for change. * Peter Chadwick, IEDP Book Reviews * A book that will transform the attitudes and perspectives of corporations. * Robert L. Brown, Juriste International * Excellent ... a vitally important subject and it's a really well-written book. * Diane Coyle, The Enlightened Economist * His [Colin Mayer's] book is a resounding paean and radical road map towards a bright future for the corporation and capitalism. * Andrew Hill, The Financial Times * Mayer's manifesto recasts the company's place in society. * Andrew Edgecliffe-Johnson, the Financial Times * [A] remarkable and radical new book. * Martin Wolf, The Financial Times * Mayer of the Said Business School at Oxford is one of the world's foremost critics of the idea that the aim of companies is to maximise shareholder value. This, he argues cogently, represents a betrayal of one of humanity's most extraordinary inventions. * Martin Wolf, Books of the Year 2018, The Financial Times *