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Two Talks at the Royal Academy of Belgium on a Sustainable Agenda for the Firm

I had the privilege of giving two keynote lectures as Chaire SFPI of the Academie Royale de Belgique, within the College Belgique, in October. The first of these was entitled Embedding Firms within the Mission Economy, and attempts to introduce and problematize the dual nature of sustainability (i.e. environmental and social), seeking to understand whether and why firms should be part of a sustainable agenda. During the talk, I sought to synthesize and move beyond the lessons of the previous Chairholder, Maximilian Krahé, returning to the discussion of “Downwards translation”. Moreover, I attempted to connect this process with Philippe de Woot’s agenda of re-thinking the “raison d’être” of the firm. I then connected this agenda with what Mariana Mazzucato has called a “Mission economy”, tracing out the role firms can and should play in such an agenda. I concluded that a multi-stakeholder approach is the best way to create shared value within the context of such an agenda. The first lecture can be viewed here:

Meanwhile, the second lecture was entitled Delivering on the Promise of a Sustainable Firm and focuses on substantiating the role of the firm as contributor to a more socially and environmentally sustainable economy. In particular, I show in the talk that the logical result of embedding a sustainable mission at the level of the firm is an understanding of firms as political entities. Pursuant to this end, I seek during the talk to develop a new understanding of the investment process, as well as tracing out the potential role of the state, civil society and investors, including SFPI, in realizing such a mission. A large segment of the talk will focus on profiling existing practices, examining these critically and making suggestions for improved practices where necessary. The talk’s conclusion attempts to lay out the research agenda that the 2022-2024 SFPI Chaire will pursue. The second talk can be viewed here:

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