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A Recent Panel of Michigan Ross and U-M Thought Leaders Tackled the Core Purpose of Business


A packed audience heard a lively discussion on different visions of business during a recent event at the Ross School of Business.

The event was a panel discussion featuring Michigan Ross and University of Michigan faculty members on “The Purpose of Business: Shareholders and Stakeholders.” This was the latest event in a Ross series this year called Business and Society, which aims to explore how business can address the most important economic, social, and political challenges of our generation. 

The panelists were:

  • Elizabeth Anderson, John Dewey Distinguished University Professor, John Rawls Collegiate Professor, and Arthur F. Thurnau Professor in philosophy at U-M’s College of Literature, Science, and the Arts

  • Jerry Davis, associate dean for Business+Impact, Gilbert and Ruth Whitaker Professor of Business Administration, and professor of Management and Organizations at Michigan Ross

  • Paul Clyde, president of the William Davidson Institute, Tom Lantos Professor of Business Administration, and Movses and Maija Kaldjian Collegiate Lecturer of Business Economics and Public Policy at Michigan Ross

  • Jagadeesh Sivadasan, professor of Business Economics and Public Policy, Michael R. and Mary Kay Hallman Fellow, and chair of Business Economics and Public Policy at Michigan Ross

The discussion was moderated by Francine Lafontaine, Senior Associate Dean for Faculty and Research and the William Davidson Professor of Business Economics and Public Policy at Ross.

“We’re not going to solve all the problems of society in this hour,” Lafontaine said in her introduction. Yet the discussion did explore the potential for the business community to make a positive difference in the world.

The panelists each explained how they view the role of present-day business, especially vis-a-vis the different stakeholders that firms serve or interact with, namely shareholders, but also customers, suppliers, employees, and their communities. Panelists also touched on the important role of government and other institutions in ensuring that markets and business deliver economic growth and opportunities for all. 

The next event in the Business and Society series is “Creating Change: A Leadership Diversity Dialogue” set for 10:15-11:30 a.m. Feb. 14 in Robertson Auditorium at Ross. David Wooten — University Diversity and Social Transformation Professor, and Alfred L. Edwards Collegiate Professor, and Professor of Marketing — will moderate a discussion featuring Bo Young Lee, chief diversity and inclusion officer at Uber and a Ross alum; and Brian Johnson, head of diversity and inclusion at Fiat Chrysler Automobiles.