“We see Rebecca Henderson’s passion and clarity of vision in her artful weaving together of research and personal experience, illustrating the potential for business to benefit both itself and society by leading on the most challenging issues of our day. Read, and feel hopeful.”
Judith Samuelson, vice president, The Aspen Institute

“Rebecca Henderson is a provocative thinker on the purpose of business in society. In her new book, she advances the dialogue about the role of business in addressing the big social and environmental challenges of our time. Hers is an important voice in an essential conversation.”
— Doug McMillon, president and chief executive officer, Walmart

“If you are unsatisfied with today’s economic arguments—which too often seem to present an unappealing choice between unbridled markets and old-school collectivism—you need to read Rebecca Henderson’s Reimagining Capitalism in a World on Fire. Henderson offers a system that rewards initiative and respects the power of free enterprise, but that also recognizes that we have a higher purpose in life than pure profit maximization. This is a book for the realist with a heart.”
Arthur C. Brooks, author of Love Your Enemies, president emeritus, American Enterprise Institute & professor of practice, Harvard Kennedy School and senior fellow, Harvard Business School

“A breakthrough book, beautifully written, combining deep humanity, sharp intellect and a thorough knowledge of business. It rigorously dismantles old arguments about why capitalism can’t be transformed and will reach people who haven’t yet connected with the need for deep change.”
Lindsay Levin, founding partner, Leaders Quest

Kirkus Reviews

A well-constructed critique of an economic system that, by the author’s account, is a driver of the world’s destruction. Harvard Business School professor Henderson vigorously questions the bromide that “management’s only duty is to maximize shareholder value,” a notion advanced by Milton Friedman and accepted uncritically in business schools ever since. By that logic, writes the author, there is no reason why corporations should not fish out the oceans, raise drug prices, militate against public education (since it costs tax money), and otherwise behave ruinously and anti-socially. Many do, even though an alternative theory of business organization argues that corporations and society should enjoy a symbiotic relationship of mutual benefit, which includes corporate investment in what economists call public goods. Given that the history of humankind is “the story of our increasing ability to cooperate at larger and larger scales,” one would hope that in the face of environmental degradation and other threats, we might adopt the symbiotic model rather than the winner-take-all one. Problems abound, of course, including that of the “free rider,” the corporation that takes the benefits from collaborative agreements but does none of the work. Henderson examines case studies such as a large food company that emphasized environmentally responsible production and in turn built “purpose-led, sustainable living brands” and otherwise led the way in increasing shareholder value by reducing risk while building demand. The author argues that the “short-termism” that dominates corporate thinking needs to be adjusted to a longer view even though the larger problem might be better characterized as “failure of information.” Henderson closes with a set of prescriptions for bringing a more equitable economics to the personal level, one that, among other things, asks us to step outside routine—eat less meat, drive less—and become active in forcing corporations (and politicians) to be better citizens. A readable, persuasive argument that our ways of doing business will have to change if we are to prosper—or even survive.

Publishers Weekly

Corporations and industries must shift the capitalist paradigm from maximizing shareholder value to “build[ing] great products in the service of the social good,” according to this lucid and optimistic manifesto by Harvard University business professor Henderson (coeditor, Leading Sustainable Change). To combat “massive environmental degradation, economic inequality, and institutional collapse,” Henderson identifies five key areas of reform: creating shared value between businesses and consumers; building “purpose-driven” organizations; establishing financial metrics to measure the environmental and social impact of business practices; cooperating on sustainable, self-regulatory standards across whole industries; and private sector support for democratic reforms. Henderson backs her claim that such changes are possible by citing numerous examples, including Unilever’s profitable development of a sustainable tea supply chain, King Arthur Flour’s commitment to empowering employees, and the partial repeal of North Carolina’s “bathroom bill” under public and corporate pressure. Though Henderson’s case to industry leaders is strong, her suggestions for general readers (eat less meat, “get political,” become “values-driven ‘intrapreneurs’” within their companies) feel scattershot. Nevertheless, this accessible and richly detailed call to action offers a clear vision for policy makers and business executives who agree with Henderson that the private sector has an obligation to tackle the world’s biggest problems. —Daniel Stern, the Stern Strategy Group. (Apr.)