An inclusive approach to tomorrow’s company

August 01, 1995

The RSA has concluded its Inquiry into the sources of sustainable business success and competitive performance.


The majority of UK companies have failed to turn intentions into action, faced with profound economic and social changes. The two year long inquiry by the Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce (RSA), Tomorrow’s Company: The Role of Business in a Changing World, identifies four major barriers to accomplishing an inclusive approach to sustainable competitive success:

an adversarial approach by middle market companies towards larger companies;

over-reliance on financial performance figures to gauge the overall health of their organisations;

misunderstanding by directors of their legal duties, favouring today’s shareholders against the long-term health of the company by balancing the interests of all stakeholders; and

a dialogue of the deaf between companies and investors.

In response, it calls for an inclusive approach in four areas: to business leadership, to people, to investment needs and to society. The Inquiry’s final report, published on June 6, sets four agendas for action by directors, managers, investors and educators. A new RSA Forum for Business Success, bringing together a small group of chief executives, institutions, auditors and regulators, to develop a new language of business success.

Tomorrow’s Company brought together chief executives from 25 top UK businesses and conducted extensive consultation. The findings have been endorsed by senior politicians and other business leaders. Contact Eva Beazley, RSA Tomorrow’s Company Inquiry, on 0171 930 5115


The outlook for Britain in the years ahead will be enhanced if new forms of institution built on broadly based, cross sector, partnerships can be successfully created. David Grayson of Business in the Community has contributed to a major research project, involving over a thousand executives and professionals across the three sectors, conducted by the Office for Public Management. Two scenarios for the future of public services by the year 2007 were prepared and tested at a conference on June 14. David Grayson set out five key rules to successful partnership, including the need for a clear vision, genuine participation, accountability and communication with stakeholders. The full research findings have been published by the OPM. Contact Sally Fitch, OPM, on 0171 837 9600


An innovative project to boost volunteering and voluntary action in time for the millennium is under preparation by the RSA. Project 2001 will work in alliance with businesses, non-profit institutions, and government departments, to identify and fund 2,001 local community initiatives, investing in human and social capital. Core funding is being sought from corporate sponsors and £250,000 has already been provided by BT, Marks & Spencer, the Paul Hamlyn Foundation and the Royal Commission for the Exhibition of 1851. A bond scheme for small and medium enterprises to support local community activity is being prepared. Pilot projects are underway in Scotland and Manchester. Contact Christopher Lucas, RSA, on 0171 593 0010


Founded two and a half centuries ago, the RSA is now deeply involved in preparing for the new millennium. In the short summary of the Inquiry findings above, it is not possible to do justice to the depth of that work. Given the exhaustive effort put into the Inquiry, the paucity of press coverage in the general and business media is disappointing. One reason is it does not grab the headlines with much that’s new or dramatic.

Rather it brings together and confirms what others have already been trying to articulate. But that should reassure, not disappoint, those who have long argued companies are part society, not apart. To have that tested through wide consultation and affirmed by senior executives grappling with today’s business problems should encourage us to press forward.

Corporate Citizenship Briefing, issue no: 23 – August, 1995