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Corporate purpose and the quest for organizational resilience

  • School: Nottingham Business School
  • Starting: 2022 / 2023
  • Funding: UK student / EU student (non-UK) / International student (non-EU) / Self-funded


Various indicators testify to an increased attention of the corporate world to corporate purpose defined “a concrete goal or objective for the firm that reaches beyond profit maximization.” Such an interest is underpinned by a growing concern about distrust in business, environmental degradation, and rising inequalities.  An articulation of the ultimate purpose of an organization is also widely held to be a condition that enhances the meaningfulness of work, thereby promoting work engagement and extra-role behaviour, which are increasingly valuable at a time when global pandemics and geopolitical tensions raise the need for organisational resilience. Large sample quantitative evidence lends support to these expectations, as it showed that a higher purpose, coupled with clarity around direction and means, has a positive impact on the financial performance of large established firms. Yet, many unanswered questions remain, the most fundamental of which concern purpose itself. Whereas some regard it as an aspirational reason for being that is grounded in humanity, others call for more precise formulations of corporate goal, anchored to the pursuit of specific problems. The case of high-purpose firms that have been involved in malfeasance and fraud also make it apparent that firms need to design governance structures and implement practices that ensure that their commitments are credible, and that purpose leads to purposeful organizing over time. Furthermore, as more large multinational enterprises embrace corporate high purpose, there is an issue of whether that would equally appeal to the workforce of different subsidiaries from different national cultures, and of whether and how they can be involved in the process of purpose identification.  Purpose is also highly ambiguous. On some occasions it has caused employees to become dispirited. Owing to these features, the project would require in-depth investigations and rich data. On the other hand, some recent developments, such as the establishment in various jurisdictions of corporate forms that require companies to identify a public purpose in addition to their commercial interests in profits (e.g., the “public benefit corporations”), facilitate investigation in large-scale settings. Accordingly, we invite exploration from several disciplinary angles, and with various methodological approaches.

Application Enquiries:

Entry qualifications

An applicant should normally hold a Master’s degree at distinction or merit level of a UK university or an equivalent qualification. International students will also need to meet the English language requirements - IELTS 6.5 (with minimum sub-scores of 6.0). Applicants who have taken a higher degree at a UK university are normally exempt from the English language requirements.

How to apply

Please visit our how to apply page for a step-by-step guide and make an application.

Application deadline: 15th August for 1st Oct 2022 start date, or 15th Nov for 1st Jan 2023 start date.

Fees and funding

This opportunity is for self-funded PhD students. Applicants are encouraged to apply for external funding and we will support this process if and when required. Find out about fees and funding for PhD projects.

Guidance and support

Find out about guidance and support for PhD students.

Still need help?

Prof. Ursula Ott