Corporate Purpose in Public and Private Firms

79 Pages Posted: 23 Aug 2019 Last revised: 29 Sep 2022

See all articles by Claudine Madras Gartenberg

Claudine Madras Gartenberg

Wharton School, University of Penn

George Serafeim

Harvard Business School

Date Written: May 4, 2022


Analyzing data from approximately 1.5 million employees across 1,108 established public and private US companies, we find that the strength of employee beliefs related to purpose is weaker in public companies. Among public companies, those beliefs are stronger for firms with more committed owners. These patterns are most pronounced within the salaried middle and hourly ranks, rather than senior executives. Differences across firms can be attributed, in part, to differences in leadership and incentive characteristics. Our findings are consistent with higher owner commitment, and the corresponding policies that arise alongside this higher commitment, enabling a stronger sense of purpose inside organizations.

Keywords: Corporate Purpose, Corporate Ownership, Corporate Governance, Investor Type

JEL Classification: M12, M14, M54, G23, G32, G34

Suggested Citation

Gartenberg, Claudine Madras and Serafeim, George, Corporate Purpose in Public and Private Firms (May 4, 2022). Available at SSRN: or

Claudine Madras Gartenberg (Contact Author)

Wharton School, University of Penn ( email )

2035 Steinberg-Dietrich Hall
3620 Locust Walk
Philadelphia, PA 19104
United States
2158987755 (Phone)

George Serafeim

Harvard Business School ( email )

Boston, MA 02163
United States


Do you have negative results from your research you’d like to share?

Paper statistics

Abstract Views
PlumX Metrics