Corporate Design for Public Good
29 November 2007 at 2:10 pm
How can corporations be designed so that they blend social, environmental, governance and financial mission at their very core? This is the design challenge of the 21st century according to a new report.
The report released in November in the US is by Corporation 20/20, a project of the Tellus Institute in Boston which offers alternative designs to meet that challenge.
The report, "Corporate Design: The Missing Business and Public Policy Issue of the Day," looks at how deeply rooted forces in the design of corporations contribute to countless major issues – the working poor, the shrinking middle class, wealth concentration, corporate scandals, and the ecological crisis.
The reports authors say it’s common to think of the relentless pressure to deliver rising earnings as somehow intrinsic to the very notion of the corporation, without realising it is in large measure the outcome of a particular design that has evolved over more than a century.
It says other designs are possible. Indeed, many are already functioning at large and small successful corporations. The Corporation 20/20 report looks at a half-dozen alternative designs, at companies such as government-chartered Fannie Mae, the family-controlled New York Times, the cooperative Organic Valley, and the employee-owned John Lewis Partnership.
Modern corporations are arguably the most powerful social institutions of our day. In many ways, they govern modern life.
But the report says the issue of corporate design has yet to find its place on the public agenda. Instead, debate focuses on single companies, single issues, single incidents.
It says corporate design has never been subject to the kind of public debate essential to building institutions in democratic societies.
The "Corporate Design" report was issued as part of the Summit on the Future of the Corporation held in Boston.
The report is the result of three years of work by Corporation 20/20. This multi-stakeholder initiative involves some 200 thought leaders from business, finance, law, labour, civil society, and journalism.
Co-authors of the report are Allen White and Marjorie Kelly of the Tellus Institute and Co-Founders of Corporation 20/20. White was a co-founder and CEO of the Global Reporting Initiative, and Kelly was co-founder of Business Ethics magazine and author of The Divine Right of Capital.
To download the report, go to: www.summit2020.org