Expert comment
9min read

The future of corporations

科林·梅耶(Colin Mayer)教授解释了这个当前时代将如何重新配置​​公司几十年

Every 50–60 years, or so the theory goes, the world of business undergoes an epoch-changing transformation. In a 1970纽约时报米尔顿·弗里德曼(Milton Friedman)提出的论文提出:“只有一个社会目的是一个社会目的……只要它遵守游戏规则,就可以增加利润”,这种精神从那以后一直指导董事会的行为。将近半个世纪前,世界经历了1929年的华尔街崩溃和大萧条,这导致了全球会计标准的发展。

Prior to that, the 1856 Joint Stock Companies Act marked the birth of modern capitalism by establishing the principle of limited liability for corporations. No longer did UK businesses need to be chartered by Queen and Parliament to build canals or turnpikes.


‘It’s like sitting in the Age of Enlightenment and observing what’s happening,’ says Colin Mayer, the School’s former Dean and Emeritus Professor of Management Studies. ‘It’s an incredibly exciting time to be researching and studying business.’

科林可以得到历史权限:分析企业文化的牧师一直是他一生的工作。Since graduating from the University’s Oriel College in the 1970s, his career has seen him lecture at Harvard, Columbia, MIT and Stanford and act as Chairman of economic consultancy Oxera, not to mention becoming the School's first professor in 1994. Having reached the maximum retirement age for professors, he stepped down in September.

Business is confronting numerous issues and an immense shift in technology – that combination will change business

他坚信业务正在经历其最新的变革时期之一 - 他目前正在作为英国学院未来公司计划的一部分探索的主题,这是他下面概述的一些重大发展。

他说:“业务目前正在同时面对大量问题,例如其环境影响,不平等,社会排斥和越来越多的丑闻:Carillion,Wirecard,Wells Fargo。”‘除了这些社会和环境压力之外,技术及其为业务带来的机会发生了巨大变化。该组合将从根本上改变业务的本质。”


There’s also been the polycrisis of the pandemic, which Colin believes prompted existential soul-searching, making companies reassess their businesses – ‘because in many cases, they faced being no longer viable’.


In August 2021, the政府间气候变化面板一个毁灭性的报告发表声明水珠al heating is 'unequivocally’ being caused by human activities, and only an immediate reduction in greenhouse gases over the next decade could help limit warming to close to 1.5°C.

The corporate world is certainly culpable: much of the environmental destruction the planet has suffered since the Industrial Revolution has been caused by businesses. Indeed, just 20 companies (including investor-owned Chevron, Exxon, BP and Shell) are responsible for所有与能源相关的碳排放的35%根据气候问责制研究所的最新分析,自1965年以来一直在全球生产。


The idea that corporate life should be remodelled was echoed by former Unilever CEO Paul Polman – now Chair of the School and co-founder of Imagine, a foundation driving corporate action towards the UN’s sustainable development goals – who said in a 2019 speech: ‘Capitalism, which has been responsible for the growth and prosperity that has done so much to enhance our lives, is a damaged ideology and needs to be reinvented for the 21st century.’

There could be financial benefits for those companies providing innovative solutions to tackle the climate crisis, especially as many countries have vowed to become carbon-neutral by 2050. Mark Carney, UN Special Envoy for Climate Action and Finance, has called it the ‘greatest commercial opportunity of our age’.

The purpose of corporations

这样的机会可能来自开发新技术或能源,或者在服务业中 - 就实现零排放的净排放甚至避免诉讼的客户咨询。特斯拉在普及电动汽车方面发挥了巨大作用,最近在下一九个最大的汽车制造商中获得了市值。晨星报道说2020年看到了ESG资金’明显胜过’ the market average.

同时,丹麦制药公司Novo Nordisk在2021年的头六个月中,净利润增长了10%,不久之后,其目的从制造胰岛素重塑为“击败糖尿病”。


Purpose-led businesses received a major boost in summer 2019 when the influential Business Roundtable lobby group in the US (members include Jeff Bezos and Tim Cook) announced they would drop the shareholder-first principle and pledged commitment to ‘improving our society’, as well as employees and the environment, promising to ‘set a new standard for corporate leadership’.

Covid-19加速了企业文化的另一种构造变化:突然转向远程和混合工作。在2020 - 21年的封锁期间,老板别无选择,只能对他们的家庭工作员工进行信任,这标志着意识形态上的深刻变化。

Indeed, empowering employees to do their jobs from home during the lockdowns led to increased productivity for many firms – UK staff worked 25% more time in the year since the pandemic started, according to February 2021NORDVPN团队的数据.

Colin believes the benefits for business will be positive: ‘It changed the culture of organisations in a very fundamental way, which is exactly what they needed to do to instil their values in their people. This is what drives successful businesses, rather than continuous monitoring and high-powered incentives.’

COVID-19大流行的前几个月还看到了一些非凡的例子,这些企业正在改造其商业模式以支持当地社区,例如香水制造商Givenchy和Christian Dior转移的生产,或者将PPE的时尚品牌ZARE品牌采购材料。科林说:“科维德在将[目的]带入议程的顶部方面做得非常出色。”

Good government


可以说是自1970年代以来,政府首次参与业务,当时凯恩斯主义的模式由于通货膨胀率高和公司盈利能力而失败。从那时起,基于弗里德里希·海耶克(Friedrich Hayek)的想法的自由贸易,低税型模型一直笼罩着现代业务,公司创造财富和政府仅在危机期间进行干预。



‘There was also the sense that government was hamstrung by the public sector, with many public services contracted out to the private sector. Since the pandemic, there’s been a reversal and a realisation of how dependent businesses are on governments to bail them out when things go wrong.’

大型科技巨人可能富有毛茸茸的,但是,正如经济学家玛丽安娜·马祖卡托(Mariana Mazzucato)在她的书中指出的那样The Entrepreneurial State,政府支持是许多技术最大的创新背后的支持,例如Google的搜索算法(由国家科学基金会的资助)或Elon Musk的Tesla和SpaceX,它们都获得了数十亿美元的美国政府贷款和公共支持。

Family-owned businesses are also set to undergo radical change. The most dominant form of enterprise ownership in the world (in the UK it accounts for overhalf of all private sector employees),它们具有最重要的股份持有(根据2017 Franks/Mayer paper)。但是改变不会来自法规。



With business facing an inclusivity problem (only 19% of households in the least developed nations are connected to the internet) ‘it needs to make access to its products much more equally distributed across the world, such as poorer parts of developed countries, and in the developing world too', says Colin.

The ethical stance of younger generations could see purpose embedded in many corporations, not just family-owned firms.

People look for inspiration when they enter corporations

‘When people enter corporations, they’re looking for something inspiring,’ says Colin. ‘Increasingly the attitude of new recruits is around the satisfaction they’ll derive from the job, as well as the money they could earn. So, to recruit that talent, organisations will need to articulate and demonstrate why they exist and why they were created. Leaders will no longer be a commander-in-chief, but a沟通者-in-chief。’

With fewer than half (48%) of Gen Z respondents to a2021 Deloitte调查believing business has a positive impact on society, corporations could see action on women’s rights and climate change assimilated into their business models.

But until this generation occupy positions of power, maybe the onus should rest with contemporary directors with long-term perspectives. As theOxford Review of Economic Policy文章‘Business in Times of Crisis’, co-authored by Colin among others, says: ‘Progress on such issues requires sustained commitment, over many years, by organizations.’



Key takeaways

  • Business faces seismic change due to societal and environmental pressures combined with rapidly advancing technology
  • 如大流行所示,政府和公司的作用和关系已经发展
  • 成功的领导模式不再是指挥官之一,而是沟通者

Most popular