4 min read
Jan 2020

Colin Mayer CBE Speaks at World Economic Forum, Davos 2020


Published January 2020

Colin Mayer CBE, co-founder of the Economics of Mutuality Lab with Bruno Roche at Saïd Business School, University of Oxford, recently spoke about the future of the corporation with colleague Sir Paul Collier at the World Economic Forum, Davos 2020. The Forum engages the foremost political, business, cultural and other leaders of society to shape global, regional and industry agendas.

Selected highlights from Colin’s contribution have been transcribed and the recording is available to watch below.

Purpose has become widely accepted as being a key component of business. The real question is: ‘What is it?’ What do we mean by a business purpose? How should businesses actually do it? And what, when they do it, is the effect on business and the rest of society?

Let me start by saying that the purpose is not simply to make money. It’s not just about profits. It’s about something much more fundamental because the purpose of a business is why it exists, why it’s created and what it’s there to do. The purpose of a business is to solve problems – to solve problems profitably – to solve the problems of people and planet profitably. And in the process it produces profits, but profits are not per se the purpose of business. Everyone who runs successful businesses knows that to be the case. They don’t profit from producing problems for people or planet.

Underpinning this is not just a vague notion of the purpose of business. It’s neither purely descriptive in being a mission statement of what a company does. Nor is it simply aspirational in terms of being a vision statement of what the company’s doing to save the world. It’s precise. It’s precise about what problems the company is going to solve, how it’s going to solve them, for whom, when it’s going to solve them and why that company is particularly well-suited to solving those problems.

… At the beginning of this year, I’m much more optimistic than I was twelve months ago. Why is that the case? Because I’ve seen a significant shift in attitude of business leaders like [Microsoft CEO] Satya Nadella in terms of their recognition that it is their responsibility to take the lead on this. They should not simply wait for governments to do it.

Photo: World Economic Forum/YouTube


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