Business and economy

The Academy has led the debate on the role of business in society in the last three years, highlighting the importance of corporate purposes that focus on solving the problems of people and planet. This notion applies insights from across the humanities and social sciences to respond to the major challenges facing business and the economy, from technological disruption, to compounding crises.
Programme status

The extraordinary consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic at the beginning of a new decade have brought into sharp relief the role of business in society from ‘feeding the nation’ to housing the homeless. This crisis compounds with the climate crisis, waves of technological disruption and huge global challenges reflected by the 17 Sustainable Development Goals. And together, these issues create an unprecedented challenge for business and the economy.

In this moment, the British Academy can bring clear and uncluttered insight from across its disciplines to help frame debates on how to respond. One way it has done this is through its Future of the Corporation programme. This programme draws on insights from a wide range of academic, business, investor and policy circles to consider the role of business in society. Described by the Financial Times as “one of the world’s most ambitious efforts to reform capitalism for the 21st century”, the core finding of the programme’s two years of research and engagement is that there is a need for a positive agenda for business that focuses on profitably solving the problems of people and planet. This framing of corporate purpose provides a foundation for a set of eight Principles for Purposeful Business that describe how policymakers and business leaders can change policy and practice to address the challenges that business can create while enabling business to take opportunities and solve problems. In 2020, the programme is convening a series of purpose summits, looking at the implications of these principles, bringing out new ideas and innovations around applying them, and growing the platform for public debate of the role of business in society.

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