One of the more thoughtful, early responses to the UK referendum result came in an op-ed from the Financial Times writer Philip Stephens: 

“Irritated as they are with Britain, other leaders would do well to study carefully the forces at work in the referendum campaign…..What Americans call the “takeaway” from the referendum can be summarised in one short phrase: globalisation is not working. Big business has become bad political news. Yes, of course one can produce endless statistics showing how open global markets are a stimulus to growth and prosperity. But as true as they are, these are abstract, aggregate figures. They do not reflect the experience of the majority.”

“For a decade or so the badly skewed distribution of the gains from globalisation and widespread tax-evasion on the part of big business were camouflaged by buoyant economic growth. Since 2008 the unfairnesses have been amplified by austerity: the wealthiest one per cent have been barely touched.

Capitalism needed saving, but in bailing out the financial institutions with taxpayers’ money, governments transferred the stresses from markets to politics. A return to economic growth would relieve some of the pressure. Europe in particular must understand just how politically corrosive slavish devotion to fiscal targets has become. But the politicians also must confront the excesses. If they want to save liberal democracy, they will have to reform capitalism.” (emphasis added).

Fortunately, there are already a range of initiatives, organisations, projects and studies out there exploring just how to “reform capitalism.” We have been mapping many of them in a Doughty Centre study since 2013.

This work relates and adds to the existing fields of Corporate Responsibility and Sustainability.  As a Centre for Corporate Responsibility, we recognise that responsible business practice is harder for companies if the prevailing environment is indifferent or even hostile to corporate responsibility.  We are, therefore, interested in what constitutes the enabling environment for responsible business. We are interested also in how the capitalist system evolves over time and the implications of the changing environment for business.

We, identified some 130 organisations, initiatives, and time-limited projects and developed a taxonomy for these, a classification system applied to the 130 initiatives and organisations we found concerned in some way (directly or indirectly) with the future of capitalism. The taxonomy can be found by following the link. 

The objectives of  the Cranfield project are to:

  • map what is happening and provide an accessible synthesis for busy managers, policy-makers and policy-influencers
  • examine common themes and areas of connection and dis-connect between the initiatives;
  • provoke further debate about future action.

As a contributor to management education, we are naturally also interested in how debates about the future of capitalism are reflected in the education of today's and tomorrow's managers.

Meantime, the following resources are shared as "Work in progress" to stimulate debate.

Our current focus is on business purpose which seems to be central to debates about long-term, sustainable, inclusive, responsible capitalism. We are participating in a forthcoming Better Business Blueprint academic conference with London Business School and co-operating with Blueprint to develop a business school teaching case on how one major company is exploring its purpose and what this means for how it does business. 

We invite feedback and further contributions as we explore the shape of further work. 

For further information or to offer your inputs please contact Dr David Slattery, Visiting Fellow, Cranfield School of Management: