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Stewardship: a new vision for the purpose of business

Gary L. Karns (School of Business and Economics, Seattle Pacific University, Seattle, USA)

Corporate Governance

ISSN: 1472-0701

Article publication date: 9 August 2011




A new vision for the purpose of business is vitally and urgently needed for emerging and developed markets to replace the shareholder wealth maximization paradigm that has contributed to contemporary ethics scandals, creating a credibility and trust crisis for business. In response, this paper seeks to present the stewardship model, a new, humane, and sustainable vision for the role of business as a contributor to human flourishing.


This conceptual paper builds on the thinking of those who have championed various reformulated paradigms in pursuit of responsible business behavior.


The center of economic gravity is shifting towards emerging markets. During this time of transition there is both a window of opportunity and an urgent need to change the social contract with business to achieve human flourishing, a more desirable goal than mere economic growth. Efforts to promote virtuous personal and corporate behavior need the mutually reinforcing element of a new business paradigm. The stewardship model casts business in the role of being a responsible steward contributing to the wellbeing of customers, employees and the community; acting with positive ethics; and partnering with other social institutions for the common good.

Practical implications

Business people and business educators should give the Stewardship Model serious consideration.


The paper offers a new paradigm for business that aligns with human flourishing and fits the emerging market context. Adopting this new vision will help to re‐write the social contract under which business operates and to rebuild business credibility and trust in emerging and in developed markets.



Karns, G.L. (2011), "Stewardship: a new vision for the purpose of business", Corporate Governance, Vol. 11 No. 4, pp. 337-347.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2011, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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