Making Sense of Corporate Purpose

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Both the societal purpose of the corporation and an individual corporation’s sense of purpose have been subject to increased attention by business elites and academics alike. This special issue presents diverse viewpoints on these two distinct yet interrelated topics. In this introduction, we present the various contributions and build on their insights to develop our independent sensemaking of what corporate purpose entails. Thus, we define corporate purpose, at both the organizational and societal levels, as an institutionalized ideal, a historical, value-based aspiration guiding strategic decision making and practices. We interpret the current societal movement on corporate purpose as one rejecting the logic of shareholder capitalism and proposing sustainable capitalism in its place: an ideal for corporate purpose based on sustainable prosperity for society and its population. At the organizational level, corporate purpose can thus be articulated as a distinctive and meaningful intent to enhance the lives of people. We identify four strategic issues to consider in reconstituting a corporation’s purpose: corporate governance, strategic leadership, stakeholder engagement, and implementation. We conclude by highlighting the centrality of purpose to corporate strategy, an emphasis that was present in the field during its origins but one that got displaced under a logic of shareholder primacy.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)123-138
JournalStrategy Science
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 2023


  • corporate purpose
  • sustainable capitalism
  • strategy implementation
  • strategy formulation
  • strategic leadership
  • stakeholder theory
  • shareholder primacy
  • relational contracts
  • institutions
  • institutional logics
  • corporations
  • corporate strategy
  • values


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