Directed by Paul Wagner and produced by Jenny Mead, Bobby Parmar, and Paul Wagner, Fishing with Dynamite (FWD) explores the past, present, and future of the new story of business in the 21st century. It is a story that emerges from the conflict between two dominant academic theories regarding a firm's purpose. The first, shareholder value theory, asserts that companies ought to focus their energies primarily on driving value to shareholders at all costs. The second, stakeholder theory, asserts that balancing the claims of and creating value for all who have a legitimate stake in the operation of a business—employees, customers, suppliers, and the environment, as well as shareholders—is the lens through which companies of all varieties should view their purpose.
FWD asserts that both academic research and real-world results support the latter theory—and that adoption of stakeholder theory's framework offers both a powerful vision for business moving forward and a helpful corrective to the ills of shareholder value ideology, all for the sake of capitalism, American democracy, and our everyday lives.
FWD illustrates the application of this framework with profiles of proto-stakeholder companies such as Whole Foods and Costco, as well as more explicitly stakeholder-rooted companies like the Container Store, Luke's Lobster, and Eastman Chemical. We also learn the historical, political, and economic roots of stakeholder theory (and of capitalism more broadly) dating all the way back to Adam Smith, and how this historical legacy can unlock a new contemporary vision of what capitalism, business, and the corporation can and should be.
The film concludes with practical steps we can take to realize this new vision—steps for government, for companies, and for individuals who want to see business and society not just coexist but thrive mutually and meaningfully.