Corporation 20/20 is unique in its focus on redesign. It seeks to integrate disparate streams of corporate change and create compelling, coherent visions of the future corporation. Examples of such streams that constitute components of the redesign landscape include:
Corporate definition. A growing number of legal scholars are revisiting the traditional definitions of the corporation, opening up opportunities to reconstitute its purpose in light of 21st century economic and social realities. As Boston College legal scholar Kent Greenfield observed at the May 2004 inaugural meeting of Corporation 20/20, “Corporate law professors today don’t agree about anything – what the corporation is, who owns it, what directors should do, how companies should operate.”
International norms. The UN, OECD and ILO exemplify intergovernmental and tri-partite government, labor and business organizations whose various codes offer essential ingredients to corporate redesign. The UN Special Representative of the Secretary-General on the issue of human rights and transnational corporations and other business enterprises exemplifies an increasingly active role of the UN in defining the role of business in a globalizing world.
Corporate law and charters. All nations, whether advanced or developing, have laws and charters that enable the corporation to exist under prescribed terms and conditions that constitute a formal license to operate. Efforts to reform such laws are at various stages in the US (e.g., Maryland, Vermont, California),, UK and Australia, and related initiatives pertaining to corporate governance have emerged in nations such as South Africa and Brazil.
Corporate personhood. Embodied in most legal regimes, but so fundamental as to merit separate mention, is the status of corporations as “natural persons,” with many of the same rights such as due process, free speech and other protections accorded human beings. Some reformers – such as the Program on Corporations, Law and Democracy (POCLAD) – believe that personhood is the most pivotal of all aspects of corporate redesign.
Shareholder primacy. Gradually evolved over years of legal precedent and management theory, shareholder primacy is enshrined either de jure or de facto in management theory and corporate operations. Its roots and implications are now under scrutiny, including by Corporation 20/20 co-founder Marjorie Kelly in her book The Divine Right of Capital. Alternative models of the corporation that elevate non-shareholders' interests, e.g. stakeholder governance and a team production framework, provide the conceptual underpinnings of a new corporate purpose.
Internal activism. Fundamental changes from within corporations occur when individuals are empowered to challenge conventional wisdom and question mainstream definitions of the corporation. Social purpose may be advanced by internal advocates ranging from CEOs to mid-level managers. Noteworthy examples are found in firms as diverse as Toyota and Nike, alongside medium and small companies such as Antioch Company and South Mountain Company. To date, risk-taking and leadership of this nature have yielded impressive results where they have occurred, but overall internal activism will continue to face major hurdles to scaling up its impact without changes in the external environment in which business operates.
Voluntary CSR initiatives. Companies themselves, motivated by reputation advantage, stakeholder pressure and/or enlightened leadership, have undertaken a wide range of CSR initiatives. While the magnitude of impact on corporate purpose is difficult to ascertain, the vast majority of voluntary initiatives circumvent rather than confront systemic barriers--e.g., ownership structure, capital structure, charters--to fundamentally altering corporate behavior beyond the voluntary, piecemeal and reactive approaches characteristic of the last decade.