LBS - Conference on "Organizations with Purposes"

Submission deadline: 15 May 2016

The Conference will be held on September 16th and 17th, 2016 at the London Business School campus.

Organizers: London Business School and A Blueprint for Better Business

In recent years, multiple corporate scandals, coupled with the 2008 financial crisis, numerous environmental disasters directly attributable to companies’ operations (e.g., the BP oil spill), and the loss of human life due to compromised health and safety standards (e.g., the Savar building collapse in Bangladesh, suicides at Foxconn), have severely undermined the public’s trust in the modern business organization, its purpose, and its leaders. Not surprisingly, demands for increased transparency, accountability and integrity, as well as fierce debates on the broader role of the corporation within society, have begun to emerge.

These formidable environmental and social forces, in conjunction with some inherent pathologies of the capitalist system itself (e.g., excessive short-termism), have threatened—or, in some instances, completely eradicated—the corporations’ traditional “license to operate”. In fact, according to the 2014 Edelman Trust Barometer – a survey conducted across 27 countries with more than 33,000 respondents – overall trust has significantly declined across countries and sectors around the world, with CEOs ranking second lowest at 43% and government officials the lowest at 36% as credible spokespeople. It seems that in the eyes of a majority of the population, business is a “consumer” of trust, eating into the bonds that hold society together, rather than a “generator” of trust.

This breakdown in trust not only undermines important stakeholder relationships (e.g. with employees, customers, suppliers, and society in general), but also stands in the way of the risky but necessary innovations that could contribute to solving the problem of sustainable and equitable social and economic development.A number of business leaders, scholars and other observers have suggested that one response to this crisis is to move towards a world in which business is “purpose driven”. For example, initiatives like “A Blueprint for Better Business” are drawing on insights from the great faith traditions and from deeply rooted philosophical traditions to argue that both our society and the firms within it are more likely to flourish if we can reframe business on the importance of deeply held values, moral character and broader responsibility to society.

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