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Piles of Books


In the sections below I highlight a number of resources that have proved helpful background reading for my own thinking on corporate purpose. As I continue to learn and build my knowledge I will add to this list, and if you have any suggestions for additional material please do let me know. The bibliography of my research, which contains a longer list of relevant readings can be found here.


The social responsibility of business is to increase its profits by Milton Friedman. Very many critiques of shareholder value as the guiding focus of the corporation begin with reference to this article, however I sometimes wonder how many of those authors have read it in its entirety. Friedman does not argue for the unbridled pursuit of profits at any expense, rather that companies should "engage in open and free competition without deception or fraud" and that executives should act in accordance with their employers' desires, including adhering to "the basic rules of society, both those embodied in law and those embodied in ethical custom". He goes on to acknowledge that some activities that might be described as "social responsibility" are in fact undertaken in the company's own self-interest and by extension to create shareholder value, and are therefore entirely compatible with his principle. It is also important to bear in mind that the conditions for his principle include a competitive market, and in his book "Capitalism and Freedom" he makes the point that monopolists should also "further socially desirable ends". As Luigi Zingales points out in his introduction to the publication below, this consideration is particularly relevant when applying Friedman's thinking to the behavioural expectations of today's digital monopolies. 

Milton Friedman 50 Years later, a re-evaluation is a brilliantly curated collection of modern publications on both sides of the shareholder and stakeholder value debate from some of the most eminent voices in the field. If only this were available when I was writing my dissertation! 

British Academy

The Enacting Purpose Initiative's Framework for Boards of Directors is 

A Blueprint for Better Business has produced some fantastic resources for thinking about purposeful business, including its Five Principles of a Purpose-driven business (which form the stakeholder basis for my assessment of corporate purpose statements), its Framework for purposeful decision-making and Purpose for PLCs, guidance for listed company boards.


My own...


Thing John Gilmore references

Other research in dissertation referenced


Shareholder value myth

Colin Mayer

etc etc



The sense of fairness by Paul Lee, an early boss of mine and someone form whom I learned, and continue to learn, a great deal. Paul writes about many facets of the concept of fairness and how it can be addressed in finance, business and society more widely. Paul has written specifically on corporate purpose here.


Grow the pie by Alex Edmans, Professor of Finance at London Business School. This blog contains material and thought leadership on purpose related to Alex's excellent book "Grow the Pie" as well as wider topics of responsible business. Alex's Gresham lectures on ... . I would also highly recommend his Google lecture ""

Tom Gosling


How great companies deliver both purpose and profit, a Google talk by Alex Edmans discussing his book Grow the Pie.

Stakeholder capitalism, the case for and against, a discussion on the concept of stakeholder capitalism between Alex Edmans (arguing for) and Lucian Bebchuk (arguing against) hosted by London Business School's Centre for Corporate Governance. 

Capitalism, the great debate: stakeholder vs shareholder, a discussion on for whom a company should be run between Colin Mayer (arguing for stakeholders) and Lucian Bebchuk (arguing for shareholders), hosted by Oxford University's Saïd Business School.

Future of the corporation - purpose summit series contains recordings of the summit held by the British Academy in 2020 addressing topics such as the role of stakeholders, how technology can help, how investors can support purposeful businesses and learning from crises. Speakers include leading academics, investors and corporates, including the CEOs and chairs of Microsoft, Unilever, Siemens, Maersk and Merck.

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