British Academy Future of the Corporation Research Conference “Social Purpose and Culture of Corporations”

This interdisciplinary conference brought together leading academics working on issues related to the future of the social purpose and culture of corporations. We will address:

  • Conceptions of culture and purpose and how they relate to one another
  • Normative foundations of corporate culture and purpose
  • Methods and tools for measuring culture and purpose
  • Ways of shaping culture and purpose
  • The relation between social purpose and corporate governance

The social purpose of an organisation is what makes the existence of the organisation desirable from the perspective of society. Social purpose concerns the corporation’s relationship with different stakeholders, including employees, customers, shareholders, and society. To develop a social purpose, corporations must articulate standards, monitor the benefits and harms the organisation causes to stakeholder groups, and develop systems and processes to improve its impact on stakeholders. The topic of social purposes raises both profound philosophical and political questions, but also practical challenges on the level of the individual organisation.

Corporate culture, as commonly defined, refers to the shared beliefs and practices of members of a corporation that affect how they deliberate and act. An ethical culture or climate works as a backstop to bad behaviour. Culture affects behaviour to a large extent by way of habituation and situational factors. Organisations can shape the behaviour of members by managing their culture through providing an ‘ethical infrastructure’ for dealing with ethically challenging situations.

This conference brings together recent perspectives on social purpose and the culture of corporations and aims to explore the connections between the two themes. Does corporate purpose need to be articulated and embedded in a corporation’s culture to create the desired private and social objectives? Does a good corporate culture help a corporation to achieve its social purpose? Does pursuing a particular purpose require a specific culture? How should the relationship between the two be shaped in the changing socio-economic environment of today’s corporations?

Date: 14 May 2018, 9am-5pm
Venue: Music Room, British Academy, 10-11 Carlton House Terrace, St. James’s, London SW1Y 5AH
Download the programme