Feb 2019

Bruno Roche Inspires Oxford University MBA Students

Published February 2019

At the beginning of February, Bruno Roche delivered a thought-provoking message to MBA students at Saïd Business School. He challenged conventional attitudes towards business by drawing on philosophy and sociology as well as economics. The engaging Q&A that followed revealed the students’ enthusiasm to think deeply about the topics that had been raised.

Selected highlights from Bruno’s talk have been transcribed below.

‘Business is a social construct. The word ‘company’ comes from the Latin ‘companio’, which means ‘to break bread’. Breaking bread in ancient Rome meant sharing physical – and spiritual – food. It was an act of fellowship. The company is where you share resources.’

‘Most of your decisions are not economically sound – when you get married, when you have kids, when you spend time with friends. We are hardwired to be altruistic. So, how do you reconcile the ‘role’ of business that is all about making ‘money, money, money’ with the fact that we are human beings who need to be connected with other people?’

‘In 2007, the management of Mars asked me, ‘What should be the right level of profit?’ This was an economic question – how much profit is needed to sustain the business. But it was also a deeply ethical question. I went back to my own identity and calling in order to respond. This is what gave birth to the Economics of Mutuality, which is a management model based on reciprocal relationships.’

‘Reciprocity, in my view, is a much higher value than sharing because reciprocity assumes that the other is like me. Reciprocity assumes that you will be remunerated in proportion to what you bring. So there is an element of fairness there. The Economics of Mutuality is based on the fact that any business does not work in isolation. You need more than one person to have a reciprocal relationship.’

The presentation was the first of two events that have been arranged for MBA students in the run-up to the fourth annual Oxford-Mars Forum to be held at Saïd Business School in May. A diverse community of business leaders and academics will join the MBA students to address practical questions of how businesses can generate financial, social and environmental benefits within their ecosystems.


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