Perspectives on Prosociality and Business Activity

CW Whitfield*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to conferenceAbstractpeer-review


My focus is on international branding and what makes some more successful than others and why some brands drive a community of activity around themselves for both the brand and participant’s benefit. - although this is still the fluid early days of defining this. Evolutionary psychology suggests a more universal set of drivers to our behaviour rather than accepting a socially constructed set of causal relationships and, more likely, a combination of nature and nurture, universalist and local. But marketing and branding theories are based, to large degree, on psychological theories and knowledge here has been accelerating quickly in light of big data genomics (nature) and theories of cultural evolution (nurture). Of note is the emerging view that humans have thrived because of prosocial behaviour as both individuals and as groups. This suggests that Hobbe’s view of life as “nasty brutish and short” is less the case and Locke’s view of the willingness of individuals to come together for the greater good via ”collaborative “social contract” closer to our shared reality. Christopher Boehm’s work in primates has suggested that human society evolved through coalitions coming together to pull down the dominant bully, interestingly often a collaborative male / female coalition grouping. Peter Turchin has used big data analytics on history (Cliodynamics) to propose that ultra-sociality has been the factor to allow some societies to succeed over time to the detriment of those more exploitative and with less egalitarian rulers in the classical to medieval period. The pertinence? There is an emerging body of research suggesting that across human history, groups acting in prosocial forms, a more collaborative route, are more successful than the ruthlessness of the classic aggressive player or group. The intrigue is whether this might be a substantive platform for business ethics and taking prosociality, and so CSR more widely, as an essential survival strategy rather than an optional mode of operation.
On a personal note, I was the cofounder of the Marine Stewardship Council when at Unilever, in collaboration with the World Wildlife Fund and this was one of the first international organisations to harness market forces to encourage sustainable purchase and so impact sustainability in corporate behaviour directly by shifting their supply chain to sustainable sources.I remain convinced that beneficial solutions for humanity are to be found by combining market forces with prosocial behaviour rather than seeing them as in conflict.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPrint publication - 24 Nov 2018
Event1st Research Colloquium – Socially Progressive Innovation and Entrepreneurship (SPIE) Research Cluster - Strathclyde Business School, Glasgow, United Kingdom
Duration: 23 Nov 201823 Nov 2018


Seminar1st Research Colloquium – Socially Progressive Innovation and Entrepreneurship (SPIE) Research Cluster
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom


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