Inspiring Stewardship by Didier Cossin Does Exactly That

    Margaret McGuire

    “For those of us raised with the hard perspective that “the only social responsibility of business is to increase profits” (Milton Friedman), stewardship is a topic approached with suspicion. Didier Cossin and Ong Boon Hwee’ empirical research analyzes the relationship between how companies communicate about stewardship and how they behave with respect to stewardship (R&D investment, labor trends, use of financial leverage, etc.). The authors then explore the primary drivers of achieving stewardship: organizational culture and leadership.

    Organizations are more likely to act as stewards when its individuals are intrinsically motivated by higher order needs rather than only external rewards. Building that kind of organizational culture requires leadership and especially strong vision and communication. Steward leaders make different decisions (more conservative financing; longer term investments in R&D, marketing and branding, etc.) Consequently, well stewarded organizations operate effectively over longer time horizons, enabled by culture built on values and trust and guided by boards of directors that think longer term.

    In their conclusions and supported with numerous examples, Cossin and Ong make the case that stewardship delivers both social and economic benefits – long term financial performance and lower risk. For a ‘stewardship skeptic’, this book changed my perception significantly with positive implications for my business.

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