We produced a thought leadership white paper in 2014 examining whether business should have a social purpose. This was commissioned by Coca-Cola Enterprises and attracted significant interest among the business community as well as high-profile media coverage.

Key Facts

    • We researched current and future business leaders’ opinions about the combination of profit and purpose – now, and in the future.

    • Our research found that the two generations have very different views of the ‘social purpose’ of business and how well companies are delivering this.

    • While current and future leaders overwhelmingly believe businesses should have a social purpose, only 19% of future leaders think businesses actually do have a clear social purpose, compared to 86% of CEOs.

    • Both current and future leaders agree that profitability and shareholder value are the key indicators of business success today. But while current leaders believe these will remain important, future leaders believe that other factors such as societal and environmental impacts, innovation and development of future talent will define the successful business of the future.

    • This research was commissioned by Coca-Cola Enterprises (CCE) and we collaborated with The Financial Times’ FT Remark and international student organisation Net Impact.

    • A white paper, entitled Combining Profit and Purpose, was published which was launched at a prestigious sustainability summit in London.

  • Funded by Coca-Cola Enterprises.

Impact of our research

The thought leadership paper was launched at the joint Financial Times and Coca-Cola Enterprises Future for Sustainability Summit in London in October 2014. The conference was chaired by Michael Skapinker from The Financial Times and attended by several hundred business and civil society leaders, the media and future leaders.

The paper was presented by its lead author and Director of the Doughty Centre, Professor David Grayson CBE, who subsequently discussed the main findings with a panel of next generation leaders.

The findings of Combining Profit and Purpose, contribute to the continuing debate nationally and internationally about the purpose of business.

Why the research was commissioned

In 2014, we were commissioned by Coca-Cola Enterprises (CCE) – which manufactures, distributes and markets Coca-Cola products in Western Europe – to produce a thought leadership paper examining whether business should have a social purpose.

Working in collaboration with The Financial Times’ FT Remark and the socially responsible international student organisation Net Impact, we interviewed serving CEOs of businesses across Western Europe and future business leaders (recent MBA participants and other Management MSc students from leading European business schools).

We produced a thought leadership white paper, called Combining Profit and Purpose: A new dialogue on the role of business in society, which also drew on a literature review, a mapping exercise of initiatives, organisations and time-limited projects, and a series of workshops with a cross-section of the mapped groups.

Why Cranfield?

The Doughty Centre for Corporate Responsibility was established at Cranfield in 2007 to improve the practice of responsible management. We aim to inspire future and current managers and to equip them with the skills and outlook to put sustainability and responsibility at the heart of successful organisations. This project built on earlier Doughty Centre work mapping initiatives and organisations working on the renewal of capitalism.