Corporate Purpose: Theoretical and Empirical Foundations/Confusions

Corporate Purpose: Theoretical and Empirical Foundations/Confusions

Holger Spamann, Jacob Fisher

Series number :

Serial Number: 

Date posted :

November 14 2022

Last revised :

November 14 2022
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  • Corporate purpose • 
  • ESG • 
  • CSR • 
  • Sustainability • 
  • fiduciary duties • 
  • co-determination • 
  • constituencies • 
  • shareholder value • 
  • Shareholder primacy • 
  • Stakeholders

Does it matter if corporate leaders pursue a broader, social corporate purpose rather than a narrow, shareholder-centric one, and can legal and governance levers influence their choice?

Theoretically—and limited by substitution, regulation, and legitimacy—socially-minded corporate decision-making can benefit society ex post, while commitment to either purpose may be required to motivate various constituencies’ contributions ex ante. Empirically, however, even structural measures like employee co-determination hardly have detectable effects, let alone mere exhortations such as those in (unenforceable) nuances of (misunderstood) fiduciary duties. Many arguments for or against (particular) corporate purpose(s) are fallacies, red herrings, or, for empirics, cherry-picking.


Real name:
Jacob Fisher