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The Business Role in Creating a 21st-Century Social Contract

The social contract—the relationship between individuals and institutions—needs an overhaul.

Well before the urgent challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic and the long overdue focus on racial justice, diversity, equity, and inclusion changed history, it was clear that our social contracts were not fit for purpose.

For much of the second half of the 20th century, the roles and responsibilities of business, government, civil society, and people remained relatively constant and provided vital protections to support healthy and productive lives. But today, people are relying on strained protection systems that fail to keep up with our 21st-century realities. And there is increasing attention on the need to align the purpose of business with essential societal needs, such as the transition to a net-zero economy; a digital economy that sustains jobs, livelihoods, and economic fairness; and the advancement of diversity, equity, and inclusion.

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