The Role of Business in Society
An Agenda for Action

The Conference Board, Harvard University CSR Initiative and the International Business Leaders Forum have made a joint commitment to the Clinton Global Initiative to organise a series of Leadership Dialogues to gather good practice, increase understanding and promote further action on the business contribution to international development. At the heart of this agenda is the understanding of the role of business in society. This paper brings together an international business leader, Niall FitzGerald, former Chairman and CEO of Unilever and Chairman of Reuters, and corporate responsibility executive, Mandy Cormack, who headed up Corporate Responsibility at Unilever. For five years they worked closely on this agenda building internal understanding, defining the priorities for action and engaging in the worldwide external debate. Drawing on this experience, they have come together here to explore why the role of business in society is on the agenda of the Chief Executive and Board of leading international companies and what they can do about it. The views expressed in this paper are those of its authors and do not necessarily represent the views of the partner organisations.

Topic Covered

  • Why the Role of Business in Society is on the Agenda of Every Chief Executive and Company Board
  • What is the Role of Business in Society in the Twenty-first Century?
  • What Difference Does Globalisation Make?
  • How Can the Board Get on the Front Foot?
  • Taking the Board Agenda Forward
  • The Core Activities for the Board to Review
  • Managing the Interlocking Agenda
  • The Steps to Build Trust
  • Conclusion

Research Report (36 pgs)
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