Oxford and Mars exploring the concept of mutuality as a business model

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The traditional model of the firm is under scrutiny. A combination of the financial crisis, misconduct by financial institutions, controversial executive remuneration packages and tax practices has undermined confidence and trust in corporations. Yet, principled businesses can and do play a positive role in helping to make the world a better place – while supporting sustainable growth. It is in this context that Mars, Incorporated and Saïd Business School have announced a pioneering, multi-year research partnership to explore the potential for building “mutuality” into business models. The study defines mutuality as the aim to create lasting positive benefits across stakeholders through an organization's activities, including its employees, suppliers, customers and communities.

The project will explore a new business management theory based around mutuality that might inform the next generation of business leaders, and engage industry in ongoing learning about what is possible for business when it comes to bettering society. The development of this business theory is intended to help provide measures of mutuality, evaluate its effect on business practice and performance, and examine the factors that influence its adoption in corporations. The project seeks to expand managerial focus beyond simple profit to take into account the full cost and potential benefit for business, society and the planet by doing business according to principles of mutuality, and addresses the new forms of scarcity – human, social and environmental.

The collaborative research program will build on the thinking, research and experience of Mars, Incorporated, as a company that has been striving to live up to its commitment to operate in a way that creates a mutuality for all stakeholders through its successful operations since it was first articulated as the objective of the business in 1947.

Stephen Badger, Mars Board Member said: “Mars Associates have been striving to bring to life Forrest Mars, Sr.’s business objective of creating mutuality for all stakeholders for more than seven decades and four generations. We sincerely believe that business has an important role in bettering the world today and for future generations. We are inspired by the opportunity to play a role in redefining the business model of the future with partners like Oxford, and learning about how to be a better, more mutual business in the process.”

Professor Colin Mayer, who leads the research project added: “Saïd Business School is dedicated to teaching and research on responsible capitalism. As part of this it is developing innovative programs of teaching and research that seek to embed responsible, inclusive capitalism in business school education and thinking. This collaborative research program with Mars on mutuality will be fundamental to that process. It will develop measures of mutuality, evaluate its effect on business practice and performance, and examine the factors that influence its adoption in corporations. We are extremely excited about this partnership with Mars which we believe could be instrumental in educating a new generation of business leaders.”

It is envisaged that the research will begin with an initial one-year project which will steer a subsequent four year programme.

For further information or to speak with Professor Colin Mayer, please contact the press office at Saïd Business School:

Clare Fisher, Head of Public Relations, Saïd Business School
Mobile: +44 (0) 7912 771090; Tel: 01865 288968
Email: clare.fisher(at)sbs.ox(dot)ac.uk

Josie Powell, Press Officer, Saïd Business School
Mobile +44 (0)7711 387215, Tel: +44 (0) 1865 288403
Email: josie.powell(at)sbs.ox(dot)ac.uk

Renee Kopkowski, Senior Director, Global External Communications, Mars, Incorporated
Mobile +908-878-7040
Email: renee.kopkowski(at)effem(dot)com

Notes to editors

1    About the research project

The objective of the research partnership is to gain a broad understanding of the values and principles of mutuality, and their application in different organizational and economic contexts.

It is envisaged that the research will begin with an initial one year project which will steer a subsequent four year programme. The initial phase of the programme will:

  •     Develop a broad understanding of the values and principles of mutuality and their application in different business and economic contexts, as well as understanding the process by which the ideas of mutuality are disseminated
  •     Scope out a framework for understanding, evaluating and measuring mutuality in business, using the experiences of Mars for illustrative purposes and as a ‘test’ environment for evaluating the effects of mutuality on business practice and performance
  •     Develop a new business management theory in an open architecture arrangement that permits inputs from non-Oxford based academics. It is envisaged that the findings will be taught to Mars executives through Mars University, and can inform the understanding of business students and executives of other interested corporations and organizations
  •     The work and findings in this initial phase will help to steer a subsequent research programme.

The research contract was signed in an official ceremony at Saïd Business School on June 25th 2014.

Members of the project’s steering group include:

  •     Dr Frank Akers, Chairman of the US Army Science Board and Co-Chair, Mars Science Advisory Council, Mars, Incorporated
  •     Stephen Badger, Mars Board Member
  •     Professor Richard Barker, Saïd Business School, University of Oxford
  •     Dr Jay Jakub, Director of External Research, Mars, Incorporated / Catalyst
  •     Professor Colin Mayer, Saïd Business School, University of Oxford
  •     Barry Parkin, Chief Sustainability Officer, Mars, Incorporated
  •     Bruno Roche, Chief Economist, Mars, Incorporated & Catalyst Managing Director
  •     Dr Marc Thompson, Saïd Business School, University of Oxford
  •          Professor Peter Tufano, Dean, Saïd Business School, University of Oxford
  •     Dr Ruth Yeoman, Saïd Business School, University of Oxford

2    About Mars’ Involvement

Mutuality is at the heart of Mars’ business and has been since 1947, when Forrest E. Mars Sr. wrote down the objective for Mars, Incorporated. Mutuality allows Mars to define success in much broader terms than just profit. However, mutuality as a business model is not just limited to Mars, and there is a growing belief that a mutual way of doing business is the responsible way to lead and to grow, and that mutuality has the power to effect change. With human and natural resources under pressure around the world, there is a growing need for businesses to reevaluate the cost of doing business, and take into account a focus that goes beyond just profit

3    About Saïd Business School

Saïd Business School at the University of Oxford blends the best of new and old. We are a vibrant and innovative business school, but yet deeply embedded in an 800 year old world-class university. We create programmes and ideas that have global impact. We educate people for successful business careers, and as a community seek to tackle world-scale problems. We deliver cutting-edge programmes and ground-breaking research that transform individuals, organisations, business practice, and society. We seek to be a world-class business school community, embedded in a world-class University, tackling world-scale problems.

In the Financial Times European Business School ranking (Dec 2013) Saïd is ranked 12th. It is ranked 14th worldwide in the FT’s combined ranking of Executive Education programmes (May 2014) and 23rd in the world in the FT ranking of MBA programmes (Jan 2014). The MBA is ranked 5th in Businessweek’s full time MBA ranking outside the USA (Nov 2012) and is ranked 5th among the top non-US Business Schools by Forbes magazine (Sep 2013). The Executive MBA is ranked 23rd worldwide in the FT’s ranking of EMBAs (Oct 2013). The Oxford MSc in Financial Economics is ranked 7th in the world in the FT ranking of Masters in Finance programmes (Jun 2014). In the UK university league tables it is ranked first of all UK universities for undergraduate business and management in The Guardian (Jun 2013) and has ranked first in nine of the last ten years in The Times (Sept 2013). For more information, see http://www.sbs.ox.ac.uk/


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Clare Fisher
University of Oxford
+44 1865288879
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Josie Powell
University of Oxford
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