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Grow the Pie
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press
  • Expected online publication date: February 2020
  • Print publication year: 2020
  • Online ISBN: 9781108860093
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Book description

What is a responsible business? Common wisdom is that it's one that sacrifices profit for social outcomes. But while it's crucial for companies to serve society, they also have a duty to generate profit for investors – savers, retirees, and pension funds. Based on the highest-quality evidence and real-life examples spanning industries and countries, Alex Edmans shows that it's not an either-or choice - companies can create both profit and social value. The most successful companies don't target profit directly, but are driven by purpose - the desire to serve a societal need and contribute to human betterment. This book explains how to embed purpose into practice so that it's more than just a mission statement, and discusses the critical role of working collaboratively with a company's investors, employees, and customers. Rigorous research also uncovers surprising results on how executive pay, shareholder activism, and share buybacks can be used for the common good.


'I do not know whether capitalism is in crisis. But I do know Alex Edmans’ superb book makes the case, compellingly and comprehensively, for a radical rethink of how companies operate and indeed why they exist. It is the definitive account of the analytical case for responsible business, but is at the same time practical and grounded in real business experience. It is a tour de force.'

Andy Haldane - Chief Economist, Bank of England

'This is an original and important book that will help transform how business sees itself - and how we see business. Alex Edmans in his passionate advocacy of 'Pieconomics' challenges us all to adopt a mindset and unity of purpose in which all business actions contribute to pie growing. The implications are radical and far-reaching. Read it: it will challenge how you think.'

Will Hutton - Principal of Hertford College, Oxford and Observer columnist

'Alex Edmans has produced rigorous evidence that the choice between people and profits is a false dichotomy. Now he makes his work accessible to a broader audience and explains how it’s possible to overcome the tradeoffs that hold so many leaders and companies back.'

Adam Grant - author of Originals and Give and Take and host of the TED podcast WorkLife

'This is a brilliant and timely book, taking the business case for responsible capitalism to a whole new level. Edmans provides a rigorous, evidence-based approach, exploring numerous angles around how businesses can (and, as he shows, must) combine profit-seeking with purpose as well as the role investors and other stakeholders can play in driving a genuine win-win approach. He tackles counter-arguments head-on and has the courage to expose examples of virtue-signalling that falsely discredit responsible businesses. Citing case studies collated over decades, it's a great read, too, offering fascinating examples well beyond the usual suspects. Grow the Pie really has the power to convince the sceptics as well as encourage advocates consider new ways to embed the approach further in their businesses.'

Dame Helena Morrissey - financier and founder of the 30% Club

'Politicians are calling for large companies to be regulated or split up. In this compelling book Alex Edmans argues that there is indeed a problem with corporate behavior but that the solution may be simpler: change corporate purpose so that companies focus on growing the pie rather than grabbing more of it. Edmans’s arguments are a powerful and persuasive antidote to much of the conventional wisdom about the corporate world.'

Oliver Hart - 2016 Nobel Laureate in Economics

'This is a must-read book for anyone interested in reforming capitalism - particularly in its role of serving wider society. The book is grounded in academic evidence, but the ideas are highly practical, and recognize the need for business to be profitable as well as purposeful. Most companies have inspiring mission statements; Edmans provides a concrete framework for translating them into actual practice. He does not shy away from acknowledging the challenges with running a purpose-driven company - balancing multiple objectives, achieving investor buy-in, and making decisions where the key criteria cannot be quantified. Instead, he tackles them head-on, giving clear guidelines on how to navigate tough decisions, which he illustrates with powerful examples.'

Dominic Barton - former Global Managing Partner of McKinsey

'In Grow the Pie, Alex Edmans has provided us with a valuable contribution to contemporary thinking about how business can be a force for good in society. His thought-provoking, often contrarian, ideas are rigorously logical, delving beneath the superficial analyses we often see, which assume correlation implies causation. And Alex’s engaging storytelling brings the principles of ‘Pieconomics’ to life with examples of prominent business people - not just those who understand the benefits of growing the pie - but also those who don’t.'

Sir James G. M. Wates - Chairman of Wates Group

'Alex Edmans has done a great service to society by showing that business doesn't have to be a zero-sum game if we focus more on growing the pie rather than maximizing our slice of it. This is capitalism with a human face.'

Andrew Lo - Massachusetts Institute of Technology

'If you’re interested in maximising the good business can do for society, you should read this book.  It’s a thoroughly good read. As someone who believes passionately in the power of business to contribute powerfully to the broader well-being of society, I’d thoroughly recommend this important, timely and evidence-rich book. For me, three things jump out from its pages: healthy businesses help to make healthy societies; business and society should see each other as partners, not adversaries; and it is an act of enlightened self-interest for business to be driven by its long-term social purpose, not short term profit maximisation.'

Liv Garfield - CEO, Severn Trent

'Just as Freakonomics encouraged readers to look beyond the conventional wisdom that underlies many public policies, now Professor Alex Edmans introduces the concept of Pieconomics. In Grow the Pie, he challenges popular rhetoric that the free enterprise system is broadly detracting from society. Instead, through many and varied examples, he offers an alternate lens through which we can interpret what constitutes responsible business. In this thoroughly readable book, Edmans debunks mythologies about corporate behavior and offers a new vocabulary by which we can have principled discussions about the role of business in society.  A 'must read' for leaders in government, business and the media that reports on both.'

Paula Rosput Reynolds - Director of GE, BP, and BAE

'This book is a must-read for asset owners, fund managers and for the boards and executives who lead business enterprise. It provides evidence-based analysis and guidance on how the influence of well-designed stewardship can yield benefit in terms of both financial returns for savers and investors and returns for all stakeholders in a way that benefits society as a whole.'

Sir David Walker - former Chairman of Barclays and Morgan Stanley International, author of the Walker Review

'This uplifting book provides powerful examples, as well as evidence, that socially responsible businesses generate even higher long term profits than corporations focused on short term profit maximisation. Value is created particularly in new economy enterprises by employee purpose, creation of brand and reputation which drives customer preference. The findings reflects my own real world experiences of striving for business excellence across the global LifeSciences industry.'

David Pyott - former Chairman and CEO of Allergan

'Finance Professor Alex Edmans defines his purpose in life as ‘to use rigorous research to influence the practice of business.’ This book, Grow the Pie, demonstrates his manifest success in fulfilling that purpose. Edmans mobilizes evidence - not anecdotes - to make a case, both accessible and compelling, for policies and practices that increase the value available for all stakeholders versus simply and simplistically maximizing profit. Edmans’ critical contribution is to reframe arguments about business and capitalism from an all too prevalent short-term zero-sum game to collaborative games where, over time, all can benefit.'

Bill Janeway - Warburg Pincus

'An important, thoughtful, and timely book. The conflicts surrounding business, and its effects on society, are the subject of a heated debate. With clarity and insight, Alex Edmans makes a valuable contribution to this key debate. Anyone interested in this important subject would find much to learn from, or wrestle with, in this book.'

Lucian Bebchuk - Harvard University, Massachusetts

'Alex Edmans provides robust evidence against the claim that businesses must choose between shareholder value and social responsibility. Although there are trade-offs, there is no single trade-off. What is good for shareholders can be good for society: evidence matters.'

Baroness Onora O’Neill - University of Cambridge


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