Business leaders address global challenges facing capitalism in new book

Schulich school of business dean
Schulich Dean Dezsö J. Horváth
Schulich Dean Dezsö J. Horváth

Dominic Barton, global managing partner of McKinsey & Company, and Dezsö J. Horváth, dean of the Schulich School of Business at York University, have announced the official release of a thought-provoking new book, Re-Imagining Capitalism, that charts a hopeful and constructive path forward for a capitalist system under increasing pressure to change to address its impact on society, the environment and prosperity.

Edited by Barton, Horváth and Matthias Kipping, Business History Chair at Schulich, Re-Imagining Capitalism brings together renowned academics, global executives and NGO leaders who reflect on the major issues confronting capitalism and put forward a number of innovative proposals.

Acknowledging the growing public distrust of capitalism and its ability to improve wealth and well-being for the many, the editors call for urgent reforms at a structural and global level to re-establish the traditional bonds between business and society, and to ensure that the free market system continues to create value for the long term that benefits all stakeholders and communities.

“This volume,” they write in the introductory chapter, “reflects both the urgency of the needed action and the opportunity to achieve a wide-ranging agreement and lasting movement towards a more responsible, equitable, and sustainable model of capitalism in order to generate long-term value.”

In addition to contributions from thought leaders at Schulich and McKinsey, Re-Imagining Capitalism includes chapters by many visionary business leaders, including Unilever CEO Paul Polman; Indian business legend Ratan N. Tata, former chairman of Tata & Sons; Loblaw Executive Chairman Galen G. Weston; former Desjardins CEO Monique Leroux; Doug McMillon, president and CEO of Walmart; Kathleen McLaughlin, president of the Walmart Foundation; and Royal Bank of Canada vice-president and former Globe and Mail editor John Stackhouse, as well as other world-renowned academics such John Kay, one of Britain’s leading economists; Lynn Stout, a legal scholar and well-known critic of an exclusive shareholder value focus; and Ed Freeman, who has been developing and advocating the stakeholder model for many decades.

In the book’s concluding chapter, “Capitalism Re-Imagined,” Horváth and Barton summarize the way forward based on the many suggestions and actions presented by the book’s authors: “Whichever direction capitalism ends up taking, it is increasingly apparent that the narrow shareholder model is being gradually eclipsed by a model that is more closely attuned to the complexity and diversity of the world we live in – a model that is more stakeholder oriented and more guided by principles of long-term value creation and sustainability. It is a model where boards and executives act more like owners, and asset owners and managers invest for the long term; where employees are increasingly treated as partners in the profitability and success of the business; where consumers and suppliers are increasingly engaged as co-creators in shaping the products and services that businesses provide; and where corporations are fully integrated into the communities and countries in which they operate.”

As examples, they point in particular to capitalist systems in Scandinavia that have successfully combined globally competitive and innovative free markets with policies that focus business attention on all stakeholders to better ensure the wealth and well-being of all citizens.

Most importantly, Horváth and Barton provide clear hope for the future: “If there is anything we have learned from history, it is that capitalism is incredibly resilient.”

The book is published by Oxford University Press. For more information on the book, visit the Oxford University Press website.