Business leaders have tremendous power to influence our society, how it operates, whether it is fair, and the extent to which it impacts the environment. And yet, we do not recognize or call out the responsibility that comes with that power. This book is meant to challenge future business leaders to think differently about their career, its purpose, and its value as a calling or vocation, one that is in service to society. Its message is for current and prospective business students, business leaders thinking anew about the role of business in society, and the business educators that train all these people.
We face great challenges as a society today, from environmental problems like climate change and habitat destruction, to social problems like income inequality, unemployment, lack of a living wage, and poor access to affordable health care and education. Solutions to these challenges must come from the market (as comprised of corporations, the government, and nongovernmental organizations, as well as the many stakeholders in market transaction, such as the consumers, suppliers, buyers, insurance companies, and banks), the most powerful institution on earth, and from business, which is the most powerful entity within it. Though government is an important and vital arbiter of the market, business is the force that transcends national boundaries, possessing resources that exceed those of many nations. Business is responsible for producing the buildings that we live and work in, the food we eat, the clothes we wear, the forms of mobility we employ, and the energy that propels us. This does not mean that only business can generate solutions or that there is no role for government, but with its unmatched powers of ideation, production, and distribution, business is positioned to bring the change we need at the scale we need it. Without business, the solutions will remain elusive. Indeed, if there are no solutions coming from the market, there will be no solutions. And without visionary and service-oriented leaders, business will never even try to find them.
About the author
Andrew J. Hoffman is the Holcim (US) Professor of Sustainable Enterprise at the University of Michigan Ross School of Business. He is the author and editor of 16 books, including How Culture Shapes the Climate Change Debate (Stanford, 2015). Among his list of honors, he has been awarded The Page Prize for Sustainability Issues in Business (2020) and 2020 ONE Teaching Award.
"Hoffman's book is for those who understand that the responsibility of business goes well beyond the shareholder and are committed to turning it into a force for good. Indeed, it's by treating business as a calling in service to society that you will not only create a more successful business but a purposeful life as well."
—Paul Polman, Co-founder and Chair, IMAGINE, CEO, Unilever, 2009–2018
"The world is deeply interconnected, and we need to act now to make sure it emerges from our current challenges to a better place. Hoffman offers us a framework for exactly that: from understanding how different stakeholders come together to drive sustainable change, to how we equip our future leaders to ensure a safer tomorrow."
—Ajay Banga, CEO, Mastercard
"This powerfully written book is a passionate call for business leaders—and the business schools that teach them—to play a central role in healing the world. Hoffman argues for profound changes in how we teach, highlighting both the need to understand the scientific, social and economic dynamics that are shaping our response to climate change and the importance of embracing management as a calling in line with our deepest moral commitments."
—Rebecca Henderson, Professor, Harvard University, and author, Reimagining Capitalism in a World on Fire
"As the last proponents of shareholder primacy lay down their banners, Hoffman points us to the leverage point of positive change—the mindset of current and future business managers, especially those who graduate into an uncertain future. A just-in-time read from a teacher-scholar-thinker on the frontlines of business classrooms and boardrooms."
—Judy Samuelson, Aspen Business and Society Program and author, The Six New Rules of Business: Creating Real Value in a Changing World (2021)