Not available in 2022/23
MG4H7E      Half Unit
The Purpose-Driven Corporation

This information is for the 2022/23 session.

Teacher responsible

Prof Stephan Chambers, Dr Jonathan Roberts and Dr Julia Morley


This course is compulsory on the Executive MSc in Social Business and Entrepreneurship. This course is not available as an outside option.

Course content

Social and environmental purpose is critical to the current business and leadership agenda.  Large commercial sector companies are increasingly wrestling with challenges to their legitimacy and considering how to support senior staff in approaching questions of social impact, justice, harm mitigation and moral purpose – whether as corporate social responsibility strategies or more profoundly integrated within the core objectives of the firm.  These concerns are no longer peripheral, but are central issues for the competitive advantage and survival of firms; they are also central to solving environmental and social problems.  Many of the ideas and practices behind this realignment remain unclear and challenging. 

This course takes on the key debates in this field and provides a framework for action for senior managers.  First, it  considers the emerging landscape of the purpose-driven corporation and the different labels in this field, from the conscious corporation to corporate social responsibility (CSR)  and to the benefit corporation.  Second, it explores theoretical propositions concerning, and the empirical evidence for, the concept of ‘shared value’ –  the suggestion that, by creating social impact, or at least by reducing harmful practices, firms can increase their profitability.   Third, it addresses the challenge for the modern firm of providing an account of its social performance,  examining the theory and practice of accounting for environmental and social impact through Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) criteria and other systems of social accounting.  Fourth, it examines the role of the various stakeholders in the purpose-driven corporation, including shareholders, managers, employees and consumers.  Finally, the course explores how to integrate ESG management and a social and environmental focus into business practice.  Cross-cutting themes include particular reference to climate action and corporations, and exploration of the dynamic policy environment, including emerging legal codification of the benefit corporation in a number of countries and tax policy towards corporations.

Using analytical frameworks drawn from management, accounting, and public policy, the course will critically evaluate the opportunities and challenges faced by the purpose-driven corporation.  Examples of the types of question that we will investigate include: what is the social and environmental responsibility of business?  Can corporations maximise profitability while doing good?    If so, under what conditions?  How should we hold corporations to account for their social and environmental impact?  Who should decide on the definition and characteristics of a ‘good’ firm?  What is the role of voluntary certification systems such as B Corps or Fair Trade?  How can government policy support and incentivise corporations to improve their social and environmental impact? These are all strongly contested debates, and the course will give students the critical understanding to come to their own answers.


Ten integrated lecture/seminars of three hours each, delivered across two modules (teaching blocks).

Formative coursework

Students will be expected to produce 1 piece of coursework in July.

Formative assessment will be twofold on this course. First, formative take-home coursework will prepare students for their summative work. Second, students will discuss a case study in class.

Indicative reading

  • Mayer, C. (2018). Prosperity : better business makes the greater good.  Oxford: Oxford University Press
  • Henderson, R. (2021).  Reimagining Capitalism in a World on Fire. London: Penguin
  • Porter, M. and Kramer, M. (2011). ‘Creating shared value’.  Harvard Business Review 89(Feb): 62-77
  • Friedman, M. (1970). ‘The social responsibility of business is to increase its profits’. The New York Times Magazine. September 13.
  • Barnett, M., and Salomon, R. (2012). ‘Does it pay to be really good? addressing the shape of the relationship between social and financial performance.’ Strategic Management Journal 33(11): 1304-1320. 
  • Cohen, R. and G. Serafeim (2020). “How to Measure a Company’s Real Impact”. Harvard Business Review, September.
  • Hall, M., Millo, Y. and Barman, E. (2015). “Who and What Really Counts? Stakeholder Prioritization and Accounting for Social Value”. Journal of Management Studies 52:7
  • Fink, L. (2018-2021).  Larry Fink’s Annual Letter to CEOs.
  • Stout, L. (2012). The Shareholder Value Myth. San Francisco: Berbett-Koehler.
  • Kershaw, D. and Schuster. E. (2019) ‘The purposive transformation of company law’ LSE Law, Society and Economy Working Papers 7/2019.



Coursework (50%, 2000 words) and coursework (50%, 2000 words) in August.

Key facts

Department: Management

Total students 2021/22: Unavailable

Average class size 2021/22: Unavailable

Controlled access 2021/22: No

Value: Half Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

Course selection videos

Some departments have produced short videos to introduce their courses. Please refer to the course selection videos index page for further information.

Personal development skills

  • Leadership
  • Self-management
  • Team working
  • Problem solving
  • Application of information skills
  • Communication
  • Commercial awareness