Module Note | July 2014

Responsibilities to Society: The Capitalist's Contract

by Karthik Ramanna

Abstract

Societies face many pressing challenges with serious implications for business leaders. These include pollution and climate change, poverty and income inequality, obesity and public health, and corruption and regulatory capture. This note presents a way of analyzing the economic, legal, and ethical implications of these challenges for business leaders, in their capacities as corporate fiduciaries and citizens. The note offers a unifying framework by organizing major contemporary societal challenges into four "tragedies of the commons" and by developing the notion of a "capitalist's contract" that can help students consider how they, as future business leaders, will respond to these tragedies.

Keywords: Responsibilities to Society; The Capitalist's Contract; Leadership;

Citation:

Ramanna, Karthik. "Responsibilities to Society: The Capitalist's Contract." Harvard Business School Module Note 115-012, July 2014.