Economic Affairs

Why 'customers first' is the ultimate winning strategy

Research shows that it delivers for all stakeholders

Research has found that in the end, the intuitions of savvy business owners are valid: the customer is paramount. PHOTO: BLOOMBERG
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Management gurus, economists and chief executives have long debated what the main purpose of a company should be. In 1970, the economist and Nobel laureate Milton Friedman famously argued that the primary responsibility of a company is to its owners, namely its shareholders. He dismissed the idea of a company funding social causes as, in effect, spending other people's money for its own benefit.

"The Friedman doctrine," which maintains that the primary purpose of a company is to maximise shareholder returns, held sway for decades, and is still influential in the world's boardrooms.

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