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Lunch and Book Discussion: Featuring John Browne, Author of Connect: How Companies Succeed by Engaging Radically with Society

On Thursday, March 10, 2016, Jonathan Fanton welcomed members and guests of the American Academy to a lunch and book discussion featuring Lord John Browne, author of Connect: How Companies Succeed by Engaging Radically with Society. Featured speakers also included Robin Nuttall, McKinsey and Company London and entrepreneur Tommy Stadlen.

Good afternoon and welcome to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Thank you all for joining us today for the second session of our new book talk series. We have invited Academy fellows from across the country—and the world—to discuss their recent work with Academy members and staff when they have occasion to be in the Boston area. We had our first talk last month with Geoffrey Cowan who discussed his book Let the People Rule: Theodore Roosevelt and the Birth of the Presidential Primary and had a thought-provoking discussion on the role of primaries in the U.S. election process.

Today, we welcome Lord John Browne of Madingley, who is here to discuss his new book Connect: How Companies Succeed by Engaging Radically with Society. Lord Browne was formerly CEO of BP from 1995-2007, transforming it into one of the world’s largest companies. He was knighted in 1998 and is Chairman of L1 Energy, Huawei UK, the Tate Galleries and Donmar Warehouse. He has authored the memoir Beyond Business, the popular science book Seven Elements that Have Changed the World, and The Glass Closet, a commentary on the acceptance and inclusion of LGBT people in business. Lord Browne was elected to the American Academy as a Foreign Honorary Member in 2003.

During his four-decade-long career at BP, Lord Browne rose from an apprentice to Chief Executive. Under his leadership, BP was rebranded as a “green” energy company with a mission to meet the needs of consumers without excessive harm to the environment while developing sustainable alternative energy sources. With his wealth of experience and expertise in the private sector, Lord Browne has maintained a sharp focus on issues at the intersection of public and private life—a theme that resonates throughout his book.

We are also pleased to welcome Lord Browne’s two co-authors Robin Nuttall who is a Partner at McKinsey’s London office, where he leads the firm’s Regulatory and Government Affairs Practice, and Tommy Stadlen, a technology entrepreneur who previously worked at McKinsey as a consultant and worked on Barack Obama’s first presidential campaign.

Their book, Connect explores how various companies (from Hershey to Heinz) have bridged the divide between business and society for mutual benefit while those which failed to do so were met with disaster (from the East India Company to Enron). The book revolves around the central question: what is the role of corporations in society? It outlines a new paradigm to restore public trust in companies and to see regulation as something that benefits both business and society instead of being feared and fought.

Arianna Huffington of the Huffington Post has called Connect “a bold and timely blueprint for the future.” And after reading it myself, I would agree and think it should be included on business school required reading lists.

At this point, Dr. Fanton turned the program over to Lord Browne.

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