Contours of Change
That the corporation will have a pivotal role in shaping twenty-first century global society is indisputable. But what that role will be is evolving and contested. The governance, strategy, and practices of corporations will need to be reconstructed to make them forces for the preservation and enrichment of capital in its many forms: human, intellectual, natural, and social. The scale and reach of modern corporations offer an unprecedented opportunity, and imperative, for redesigning these engines of wealth creation to serve the goals of human and ecological well-being. In particular, the dominance of financial capital in shaping corporate behavior must give way to a new vision in which long-term sustainability becomes embedded in the DNA of twenty-first century business. This will require bold leadership, wise policies, and revised ownership arrangements to make the public good the paramount mission of corporate activity. Incremental progress in the form of “corporate social responsibility” has run its course. Designing truly sustainable corporations is integral to the systemic change that lies at the heart of a Great Transition.
Models of Change
Normative scenarios of the future corporation reflect deeply transformed institutional structures, including forms of ownership and governance, strategies and practices, goods and services. This vision rejects the myopic view, now dominant, that relies on financial metrics to define success. Instead, corporate performance is measured with reference to multiple capitals, and is held accountable for establishing, disclosing and achieving capital enrichment in all its manifestations. Building on the handful of corporations that exhibit such attributes, redesign research embraces foundational principles that steer companies, regulators, and citizens to align actions toward a new compact between business and society in pursuit of environmental sustainability and social justice.
Agent of Change
The Corporate Redesign program at Tellus partners with leading thinkers and practitioners to develop new initiatives and institutions to fill critical gaps in the landscape of institutional innovation. Grounded in theoretical and empirical research, Tellus has been instrumental in founding such programs as the Global Reporting Initiative (www.globalreporting.org
), Corporation 20/20 (www.corporation2020.org
), and the Global Initiative for Sustainability Ratings (www.ratesustainability.org
). In this way, it brings to life new concepts of corporate accountability, governance, and practice. Its role as incubator and catalyst, and the continuous learning of building such organizations, enables it to play a leading role shaping the future of the corporations worldwide.