What is Mutuality?

Organisations can unlock meaningfulness when they use mutuality as a management philosophy inside their organisations and beyond to their external stakeholders. Mutuality describes how we are to live with one another. Mutual organisation creates the conditions under which we are prepared to join our effort to those of others in order to secure together what one cannot secure alone. As a framework for organising, mutuality fosters relationships consistent with desirable civic and human values. As a strategic principle, mutuality stimulates the social practices need for work design, collaborative knowledge building and innovation. Mutuality can be translated into ownership (cooperatives, mutuals and employee ownership) – it can also be a general approach for all kinds of organisational forms, including shareholder, family, social enterprises, B-corporations and civic associations.

Values to mutual value creation for common good outcomes

Corporations are concerned about the future sustainability of supply chains which fail to produce sufficient value for fair distribution between stakeholders, or which create value by means which risk environmental or social harms. it is too common for producers and suppliers to suffer insufficient and unreliable income streams, a lack of decent work and diminished opportunities for human capability development. In early phase CSR initiatives, corporations have relied upon the remedy of voluntary codes, certification schemes, participatory initiatives and private governance arrangements. Despite these efforts, many supply chains continue to languish in low fairness equilibria: trapping producers and suppliers in potentially exploitative relationships, where power imbalances expose the weaker party to vulnerabilities.

Escaping the low fairness trap will require innovations in supply chain practices which link values to value creation. Here, values of fairness, care and flourishing in supply chains have an important role to play, and are explored in my project on ‘values to shared value creation in sustainable supply chain management’. The project is funded by Oxford’s John Fell Fund, involving Dr Lauren McCarthy, Royal Holloway University of London and Dr Milena Mueller Santos, University of Oxford. Our participating organisations include Primark and their partners, CottonConnect and SEWA (self-employed women’s association).

Supply chain fairness is an under-researched topic. We draw upon key contributions to the psychology, economics and organizations studies literature to illuminate the salient features of fairness in social and economic systems, such as supply chains. We seek to show how fairness influences economic behaviour and firm performance in important ways. Even though the business case for supply chain fairness is well established, the role of stakeholder fairness perceptions in supply chain management warrants further investigation.
Human values are part of an organisation’s ethical capacity, which is linked to systemic resilience and sustainable value creation. Sustainability includes both social and environmental dimensions. Understanding how partners in supply chain innovation (private, public and civic organisations) use values to generate new ways of creating value is a core feature of supply chain innovation. This includes critically evaluating imbalances in power relations, and inequality when convening multiple stakeholders for the purpose of collaborative knowledge building and generating supply chain innovations.


Yeoman, R. & Mueller Santos, M. (2019). Global Value Chains, Reputation and Social Cooperation. Deephouse, Gardberg & Newburry (eds.). RGSM (Vol. 18): Global Aspects of Reputation and Strategic Management


Yeoman, R. & Mueller Santos, M., Fairness and Organizational Performance: Insights for Supply Chain Management” (November 11, 2016). Saïd Business School WP 2016-33.

Yeoman, R. & Mueller Santos, M. (2019). A Complex Systems Model for Transformative Supply Chains in Emerging Markets. International Journal of Emerging Markets (earlycite by March 2019)

Yeoman, R (2016). Care, Emotions and Deliberation in the Corporate Management of Ethical Supply Chains. Business, Policy & Sustainability Conference, Copenhagen Business School. 16-17 June, 2016.

Mutual Organisation Model

imageFor Rochdale Boroughwide Housing (RBH), we used the mutual organisation model to develop a mutual leadership programme which helped co-owners establish the culture and behaviours needed for mutual ownership. RBH is a dual constituency mutual – jointly owned by employees and tenants.  A case study of the organisation can be found in the Oxford Handbook of Mutual, Co-operative and Co-owned Business.


Yeoman, R. (2017). From Traditional to Innovative Multi-Stakeholder Mutuals: The Case of Rochdale Boroughwide Housing. In: Blasi, Borzaga&Michie (eds.) the Oxford Handbook of Cooperative and Mutual Business. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Working with the Mutual Organisation Model


Mutuals in Health Pathfinder: Feasibility Study for Surrey & Sussex Healthcare NHS Trust. Cabinet Office 2015


Intangible Assets


Yeoman, R., Batten, S., Stroll, D. & Andersen, B. (2017). Intangible Gold. Research and Policy Papers on Intangible Assets for the Big Innovation Centre.


Tischer, D., Yeoman, R., Nicholls, A., Stuart, W., &Michie, J., (2016). An Evaluative Framework for Mutual Performance. The Journal of Social Entrepreneurship.
Mills, C. & Yeoman, R. (2016). New Models of Ownership and Governance. In: Webster, Shaw &Vorberg-Rugh (eds.) Cooperative Futures. Manchester University Press.
Yeoman, R. & Tischer, D. (2016). Reframing Building Societies and Mutual Insurers: Collaboration as a Source of Competitive Advantage. Kellogg College, University of Oxford. Funded by the Building Societies Association/Association of Financial Mutuals (see

‘Governance and Voice: How mutuals and employee owned businesses create stability, resilience and legitimacy’.

Yeoman, R. (2017). Mutuality, Meaningfulness and Employee Ownership. In Our Interests – Building an Economy for All. Cooperative Party.

Mutuality in Business

I worked with Professor Colin Mayer to establish the Oxford/Mars Inc. Mutuality in Business research programme at the Said Business School, University of Oxford.