What Is the
Economics of Mutuality?

Spurred by a far-sighted question in 2007 posed by the leadership of Mars, Incorporated — ‘What is the right level of profit?’ — the Economics of Mutuality programme has matured into a breakthrough management innovation and a new growth model that empowers business to adopt a more complete and mutual form of capitalism that is fairer and more efficient than the dominant profit-maximising business models of today.

 
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Rooted in Business Practice and Academic Rigour

Partnering with a wide range of Mars business units around the world and with world-class academics from leading universities, including the University of Oxford’s Saïd Business School since 2014, Mars Chief Economist Bruno Roche and his Catalyst team have undertaken over a decade of in-depth research. This has included field experimentation in the Mars business ecosystem, in-depth reviews and case studies of best practice across a variety of companies and business pilots to explore the practicalities of how business can address the people, planet and profit equation in their wider operational ecosystems.

Founded on breakthrough performance metrics, innovative management and accounting practices and new forms of profit construction, the results of the Economics of Mutuality are extremely promising. They are demonstrating that when a company invests in its communities, people and environmental ecosystem, while measuring and managing performance with non-financial indicators, the value created is superior - including financial performance even in the short term. 

This approach promotes a more mutual, environmentally-friendly and financially successful economy, at the heart of which lies the transformation of business performance that creates a new relationship between business, society, the environment, capital and work. The Economics of Mutuality is now evolving into an open collaborative structure to help engage more business leaders around the world in transforming their companies.

The Economics of Mutuality approach is described by Bruno Roche and Jay Jakub in their book, ‘Completing Capitalism’, which is currently available in English and will be translated into Mandarin by Citic Press in July 2018.

 


Bruno Roche outlines the Economics of Mutuality

Bruno is Mars Chief Economist and Catalyst Managing Director.

 
 

 

Economics of Mutuality is a robust methodology that embraces the duty and the opportunity for business leaders to reposition the corporation positively, in ways that reflect the changing needs of society and the environment while unlocking untapped growth and value creation opportunities.

Jay Jakub
Catalyst Senior Director
for External Research

 
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The Start of the Journey

In 2007, John Mars, Chairman of Mars, Incorporated, asked, 'What is the right level of profit for the corporation?' This was an astounding question to be asked by a shareholder, as most shareholders in the world today would define the ‘right’ level of profit as the maximum that can be extracted from a value chain and distributed to them as dividends.

Catalyst, as the internal think-tank of Mars, Incorporated, was subsequently asked to examine the profound and disruptive question, which has deep moral and business implications. After initial analysis considering the relationship between profit and growth, Catalyst concluded that looking at traditional measures of business performance would be inadequate. The very definition of performance for Mars — and other companies — had to be re-thought.

An answer able to do justice to the question could not simply be about fair distribution of dividends or relationships between profit and growth. The question demanded that Catalyst go beyond the narrow financial performance metrics used by businesses today and instead consider the holistic value all business creates and/or destroys across people, planet, and profit.

We have designed a quiz that tests if you are wrestling with some of the same issues as us.

 
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Groundbreaking Findings

In business you only manage what you measure and you only achieve good performance with management. So, with our aim of transforming business performance to deliver value across people, planet and profit, we had to begin by expanding what was being measured. This led to a decade of extensive research and testing of the measurement of non-financial capitals — human, social, and natural.

The research breakthrough came in identifying simple and stable ways to measure non-financial capitals that would be actionable by business. It would be unrealistic, for instance, to exhaustively measure social capital through each of its numerous expressions and dimensions. We have sought to capture the essence of non-financial capitals in a few key indicators.

Human capital is defined and measured as the experience, skills, confidence, aspiration, health and well-being of an individual. Social capital is defined and measured as the trust, social cohesion, and capacity for collective action in communities. Both these capitals use expert-designed survey tools deployed to the relevant people and communities in the specific business context.

Natural capital was slightly different given the extensive and robust measurement tools already available. Research here was about identifying an approach that suited its management (inputs) rather than its reporting (outputs). Therefore, with the goal of actionability in mind, an inputs approach focused on 5 key resource areas was taken: abiotic, biotic, water, air, and topsoil erosion.

Each of the measurement tools and metrics were developed with a wide range of academic experts, tested extensively and peer-reviewed twice by an external expert panel. Their conclusion was that the development of these new actionable business metrics measuring non-financial capitals was 'groundbreaking'.

 
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Based on a decade of in-depth research and practice undertaken by Mars, Incorporated and Oxford University in conjunction with other leading academic institutions and companies, Economics of Mutuality promises a new normal that has the potential to restore trust in corporation and deliver a new era of prosperity.

Bruno Roche
Mars Chief Economist and
Catalyst Managing Director

 
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Developing a Management Model

Measurement is only one part of the puzzle. These new metrics were raising many fascinating new data points such as levels of well-being at work and trust in our supply chains. But business is not about measurement for measurement's sake. This data still needed to be combined with management practices and business model interventions to leverage the new non-financial data-driven insights. We needed to build new management muscles that could engage and grow non-financial capital in the same way that business has always managed its financial capital. 

Good management is more than knowledge of the facts and figures; it is also a mindset. So, good management of the new non-financial metrics required shifting to an innovative multi-capital mindset built on new principles and practices. Business is an actor in a 'hybrid value system'.

  • Design business models with purpose at the core
  • Engage the wider ecosystem of stakeholders: orchestrate vs. dominate and leverage vs. own
  • Build partnerships with unconventional stakeholders
  • Set non-financial KPIs
  • Manage business performance with a multiple capital P&L
  • Design innovative organisational and ownership structures

The combination of new metrics and new management practices to manage both the financial and non-financial wealth of business is what we call the Economics of Mutuality. 

 
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The Implications

Even after this long journey of research and piloting, we are only just getting started. Both the research and business piloting are on-going; each yielding new insight into how business can perform for people, planet, and profit simultaneously.

The research showed us not only that it was possible to measure non-financial capital in a stable and actionable way, but also that there are clear positive correlations between non-financial capitals and financial performance. Since 2014, through  a joint research partnership between the Saïd Business School at the University of Oxford and Mars Catalyst, we continue to deepen and broaden these research insights. In parallel, we are continuing to grow and launch new Economics of Mutuality businesses in a variety of diverse geographies and business contexts with Mars, Incorporated. Each of these is unearthing new practices and strategies for business to invest in social/human/natural capital in ways that also deliver financial performance. 

Now, we want to scale this journey of Mars Catalyst and the Economics of Mutuality up into a global movement that catalyses transformation in business for the the good of all. With this goal in mind, we are committed to sharing our knowledge through a variety of education courses and events around the globe. 

 


Business Case Studies

Theories have to be put into practice and the theoretical models can be improved by doing and learning from others. Developing case studies, therefore, forms an important part of the learning and teaching process.

Project Maua is one of our successful businesses that runs on the Economics of Mutuality model and is part of Mars Wrigley Kenya. We also realise that there are many other companies doing valuable and impactful work. So, we make it a priority to learn as much as we can from others, too.