By Brian Collett — Public trust in business, corporate objectives, regulation and taxation will be the main themes of a three-year research study started in September by the British Academy.
Researchers will explore the purpose of business and its role in a society that is rapidly being changed by developments such as artificial intelligence, or AI, virtual reality and the gig economy.
The British Academy
, the UK body specialising in humanities and social sciences, has received £1.5m ($2m, €1.7m) from a consortium of businesses, charitable bodies and other groups and individuals to conduct the study.
Its report, The Future of the Corporation, will be a comprehensive, interdisciplinary analysis, making policy recommendations for a range of stakeholders.
The British Academy says it sees the erosion of trust and the perception of corporate irresponsibility as among the world’s biggest challenges – which business leaders must tackle.
British Academy fellow Colin Mayer, who is management studies professor at Oxford University’s Said Business School and who leads the research, said: “Since the financial crash in 2008 we’ve seen widespread concern within society about business irresponsibility.
“If trust is to be regained, businesses, shareholders, educators and government need evidence to understand how faith in business can be restored.
“The Future of the Corporation research will provide an evidence base to support future business developments and new sustainable corporate models that adapt to the changing and increasingly technological nature of work.”
Mustafa Suleyman, co-founder and head of applied AI at Google Deepmind, the internet provider’s AI company, said: “While it’s increasingly easy to see how businesses can make a positive social impact, it’s far harder to ensure that they are truly accountable to society itself and serve the broader public interest beyond simply their shareholders.
“Traditional forms of corporate governance have been struggling for years, and technology risks creating ever larger imbalances of power between organisations and the people they are meant to serve.
“Many people around the world are already working to invent new mechanisms for accountability, and I hope that this major research project from the British Academy will help provoke further answers and rally support for change.”
The project is part of the British Academy’s Challenge of Change series
studying some of the world’s most demanding modern problems.