Shortlisted for the Financial Times/McKinsey Book of the Year Award
"Henderson's convincing arguments and passion will be a clarion call to action for business leaders and interested readers everywhere."—Library Journal, starred review
"Lucid and optimistic...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."—Publishers Weekly
"A well-constructed critique of an economic system that, by the author's account, is a driver of the world's destruction... A readable, persuasive argument that our ways of doing business will have to change if we are to prosper-or even survive."—Kirkus Reviews
"This book has an important message about the critical role of purpose-driven businesses in our society and how capitalism and democracy need to interact constructively to solve our most pressing challenges."—Stanford School of Business
"The COVID-19 pandemic has given the ideas in... Reimagining Capitalism in a World on Fire...a perverse timeliness, making these issues not only relevant, but even appealing, to people who previously may not have touched them with a 10-foot pole."
—Katherine Dunn, Fortune
"In engaging and refreshingly candid writing, Henderson sets out her vision of equitable and sustainable capitalism and enumerates the changes needed to get us there....Her blueprint may sound impossible, yet Henderson's optimism is founded on deep expertise as a scholar who has worked closely with corporate leaders."
—Mark Kramer, Stanford Social Innovation Review
"Coupling detailed accounts from companies taking strides toward redefining capitalism with her own rich understanding of the potential of modern businesses, Henderson makes a compelling argument that capitalism as we know it is a missed opportunity, and builds the framework for business to prosper while complying with environmental factors and championing social justice."
—WBUR.org The ARTery
"Reimagining Capitalism in a World on Fire...should encourage a new era of co-operation & collaboration between government, business & communities of individuals."
—Andrew Hill, Financial Times
"This powerful and readable book is a clarion call for reimagining and remaking capitalism. The market economy, which used to generate rapid productivity growth and shared prosperity, has done much less of that over the last four decades. The shifting balance of power in favor of large companies and lobbies, the gutting of basic regulations, the increasing ability of corporations and the very rich to get their way in every domain of life, and the unwillingness of the government to step up to protect its weakest citizens are likely responsible for low productivity growth and ballooning inequality in the US economy. Rebecca Henderson argues that the market system can be reformed and this can be done without unduly harming corporations. We can have a more moral and more innovative capitalism. There is hope!"—Daron Acemoglu, coauthor of Why Nations Fail
"If you are unsatisfied with today's economic argumentswhich too often seem to present an unappealing choice between unbridled markets and old-school collectivismyou 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, president emeritus, American Enterprise Institute; professor of practice, Harvard Kennedy School; senior fellow, Harvard Business School; and author of Love Your Enemies
"Rebecca Henderson is masterful in both elegant articulation of one of society's great challenges and clarity of vision in laying out a roadmap for practical and essential change. Reimagining Capitalism is a great read, full of insights, and a refreshing perspective that is new, practical, and ground-breaking, offering clear steps for transitioning to a capitalism that is both profitable as well as just and sustainable."—Mindy Lubber, CEO and president, CERES
"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
"In a world on fire, status quo is not a great option. Rebecca Henderson rightfully argues for a refoundation of business and capitalism and offers thought-provoking ideas on what needs to be done to address some of the world's greatest challenges."—Hubert Joly, former chairman and CEO, Best Buy
"A must-read for every person with a stake in our economic system since change or die is the inescapable reality confronting capitalism. The question is how. Rebecca Henderson provides investors and corporate executives with the thought leadership and compelling examples foundational for understanding how to deliver sustainable and inclusive economic growth."—Hiro Mizuno, executive managing director and chief investment officer, GPIF
"Capitalism as we know it has gotten us this far, but to take the next steps forward as a society and species we need new ways of seeing and acting on our world. That's exactly what Rebecca Henderson's book helps us do. This is a smart, timely, and much-needed reimagining of what capitalism can be."—Yancey Strickler, cofounder and former CEO, Kickstarter, and author of This Could Be Our Future: A Manifesto for a More Generous World
"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 and Future Stewards
"With great clarity and passion, Rebecca Henderson provides a stellar guide to building a purpose-driven organization, the surest path to success in a time of rising temperatures and declining trust."—Andrew McAfee, author of More from Less and coauthor of The Second Machine Age and Machine, Platform, Crowd
"Rebecca Henderson weaves together research and personal experience with clarity and vision, 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
"Reimagining Capitalism is a breath of fresh air. Written in lively prose, easily accessible to lay readers, and chock full of interesting case studies, Henderson comprehensively surveys what we need to secure a workable future. Some readers may think she goes too far in places, others may think she doesn't go far enough, but everyone will want to think about the economy she urges us to create."—Larry Kramer, president of the Hewlett Foundation
Corporations and industries must shift the capitalist paradigm from maximizing shareholder value to “build 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.)
Because a degraded planet and impoverished populace will be bad for profits, Henderson (business, Harvard Univ.) strategizes how business will be part of the solution. She tells of a waste company that profited by selling valuable metals harvested from recycling and how Walmart saved a fortune by increasing the energy efficiency of its truck fleet. While such innovations may hurt short-term profits, she says they can mitigate future risks, citing what happened with Nike when it ignored its supply chain until it became synonymous with child labor. Henderson explores innovative practices that enhance customer relations, create engaged workforces, and promote long-term thinking in tackling environmental and social ills. To ensure businesses can act effectively, she explains, there is also need for supportive financial markets and governments. VERDICT Henderson's convincing arguments and passion will be a clarion call to action for business leaders and interested readers everywhere. A complementary work is microfinance champion Muhammad Yunus's A World of Three Zeros, while Christopher Leonard's Kochland offers a contrasting portrayal of the Koch Industries' single-minded resistance to any such ideas.—Lawrence Maxted, Gannon Univ. Lib., Erie, PA
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.