The 360 Corporation
From Stakeholder Trade-Offs to Transformation
Today’s businesses have to answer to more than just shareholder demands. Stakeholder pressures have companies pulled in many different directions, from employees who want meaningful work; to consumers who want sustainable products; to activists monitoring companies’ social and environmental footprint. In talks, as well as her book The 360° Corporation, Rotman professor Sarah Kaplan shows us how the trade-offs we make to fulfill these pressures—along with shareholder demands—can be an opportunity for innovation, organizational resilience, and business transformation.
“As business leaders, we evaluate and make trade-offs every day. Sarah Kaplan has prepared a cogent guidebook to help turn these events into strategic opportunities to capture value.”— Dave Stangis, VP of Corporate Responsibility, Campbell Soup Company
In her book The 360° Corporation, Sarah Kaplan addresses the challenges that arise when stakeholder needs conflict with the corporate bottom line. In the past, corporate social responsibility has been treated as an add-on or a nice-to-have, rather than a crucial component of business. But today, the public expectations of a company are greater than ever. In addition to financial performance, companies now need to make a positive contribution to society to be considered successful. Even the Business Roundtable—a lobbying group of executives in over 200 large U.S. corporations—announced that it was renouncing shareholder primacy in favour of the commitment to “deliver value” to all stakeholders. Kaplan concentrates on not only how we can deliver such value, but how we can use the trade-offs as a catalyst for powerful change. “We need to think of stakeholder trade-offs as innovation challenges,” Kaplan writes in The Financial Times.
Yet for all the eager commitments that came out of the Business Roundtable—even Amazon’s Jeff Bezos signed—the coronavirus has revealed how far we still have left to go. From the glaring inequalities between workers, to the continued degradation of the planet, the virus has laid bare the enormous fractures still present in our economy—and they’re only getting bigger. Solving this crisis is not a matter of recovering what’s been lost, says Kaplan, but an opportunity for us to “build back better.” In her brilliant article for Fast Company, Kaplan makes a compelling case: the socially responsible approach to business is actually the more resilient approach, and the one we need to take. From redesigning the workforce, to overhauling corporate strategy and governance, she shows us how taking care of stakeholders is not only possible, with real innovation and transformation, but also absolutely necessary.
Kaplan is a Distinguished Professor at the University of Toronto’s Rotman school, as well as the founding Director of the Institute for Gender and the Economy (GATE). Her previous research has covered how organizations participate in and respond to the emergence of new fields and technologies in fiber optics, biotechnology, financial services, nanotechnology and most recently, the field emerging at the intersection of gender and finance. Prior to The 360° Corporation, Kaplan co-authored the bestselling book Creative Destruction as well as Survive and Thrive: Winning Against Strategic Threats to Your Business. Formerly a professor at the Wharton School (where she remains a Senior Fellow), Kaplan also has nearly a decade of consulting and innovation experience at McKinsey & Company. She completed her doctoral research at the Sloan School of Management at MIT, and holds a BA with honors in Political Science from UCLA, and an MA in International Relations and International Economics from Johns Hopkins University.