Purpose-Driven Companies and Sustainability
33 Pages Posted: 18 Feb 2021 Last revised: 1 Jun 2021
Date Written: February 16, 2021
Corporate purpose and business sustainability appear to be intrinsically related ideas, and yet there is little research on the nature of this relationship. The chapter begins with a discussion of purpose and two parallel treatments of the topic. The “corporate purpose” treatment, rooted in early 20th century institutionalism, views purpose as a (or, possibly, the) primary differentiator of firms over markets. The “purpose of the corporation” treatment, rooted in a near century-long debate in law and finance on the role of corporations in society, considers purpose as the appropriate objective for corporations. At the confluence of these two treatments lies important implications for the firm: how purpose is determined, how it influences behavior at both the organizational and employee level, and the associated role of leadership. The chapter then considers how these implications intersect with business sustainability. I suggest mechanisms by which purpose and sustainability might be mutually reinforcing, and the conditions under which this might occur. Each of the sections of this chapter concludes with topics for future research.
Keywords: Corporate purpose, sustainability, ESG
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