Companies are faced with both an imperative need and an unprecedented opportunity to renew themselves. It is widely acknowledged that businesses can play a major role in the search for reasoned growth, generating wellbeing and progress. If they are not the ones to take on this challenge, it will be difficult to find anyone else to do it. States lack the financial resources and the necessary flexibility; philanthropy and more generally social economy are progressing but they do not to any extent have the power held by capitalistic companies. Furthermore, with the accelerated pace of digital revolution and technological innovation, businesses can offer new solutions to climate change, health, economy and environment challenges.

The excessive pursuit of a simplistic end: creating shareholder profit has isolated companies and fed suspicion against them. Many of them now complain about this, without reforming however. The current models inherited from the past and above all company purpose and governance need to be thoroughly reconsidered. In an increasingly complex environment, tomorrow’s successful companies will be those which will adopt a flexible governance capable of promoting innovation, while analyzing their contribution to well-being at work and to the preservation of common goods. Possible conditions of such governance – modification of the corporate purpose, prevalence of the enterprise project, accountability to all stakeholders – while safeguarding the essence of the company itself – delegation of authority to the chief executive and search for measured profit as the condition to durability – are described here. These propositions are radical but they will put the enterprise back at the service of society.

Daniel Hurstel is lawyer member of the Paris Bar and member of the Académie Royale des sciences, des lettres & des beaux-arts of Belgium.

Daniel Hurstel : Companies governance and society needs