Reports
Published: 30 October 2013

Global Agenda Council on the Role of Business

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The environment in which today’s businesses operate has undergone a fundamental transformation in the last two decades. Increasingly, leaders in the private sector have realized that old conceptions of business’s roles and responsibilities are inadequate and that they can no longer afford to focus exclusively on maximizing short-term returns. The famous dictum of economist Milton Friedman – “the business of business is business” – still looms large in the minds of many executives and policymakers; nonetheless, the need to reframe the timeline, social contexts, and risk factors that affect businesses’ operating environment has become increasingly apparent. Business has a license to operate granted by citizens through their governments, and that license will be at risk unless a new conception is defined in order to arm business leaders with the mandate and understandings of duties necessary for the 21st century.

The environment in which today’s businesses operate has undergone a fundamental transformation in the last two decades. Increasingly, leaders in the private sector have realized that old conceptions of business’s roles and responsibilities are inadequate and that they can no longer afford to focus exclusively on maximizing short-term returns. The famous dictum of economist Milton Friedman – “the business of business is business” – still looms large in the minds of many executives and policymakers; nonetheless, the need to reframe the timeline, social contexts, and risk factors that affect businesses’ operating environment has become increasingly apparent. Business has a license to operate granted by citizens through their governments, and that license will be at risk unless a new conception is defined in order to arm business leaders with the mandate and understandings of duties necessary for the 21st century.

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