Arts and Ideas
Rebecca M. Henderson, Harvard University

Reimagining Capitalism: Business, Purpose, and the Big Problems

As a world we face a number of “big problems” including accelerating environmental degradation and rising inequality. The private sector has traditionally treated these problems as externalities and relied on the public sector to address them. But governments around the world are finding it increasingly difficult to address them with any success. Could the private sector play a major role in addressing them? Would it make a difference if firms were “purpose driven”? What would purpose driven firms look like, in a world in which many managers believe that the social responsibility of business is to increase its profits? Would they be legal? Could they survive? Could they change the world?

Rebecca M. Henderson is the John and Natty McArthur University Professor at Harvard University, where she has a joint appointment at the Harvard Business School in the General Management and Strategy units and is the Co-Director of the Business and Environment Initiative. Professor Henderson is also a research fellow at the National Bureau of Economic Research. Her work explores how organizations respond to large-scale technological shifts, most recently in regard to energy and the environment. She teaches Reimagining Capitalism in the MBA Program.

Cosponsored with the Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics.