Businesses do not act in a socially responsible manner nor should this be an expectation, it will never happen. Only the persons within organizations can choose to accept social responsibilities. A corporation is not made of flesh, blood, or brains. It has no emotional ties to its employees, society, or the environment. Rather, it is a synthetic entity possessing only an abstract sense of responsibility if the human owners of the business have integrated socially responsible behavior into its operation. It has been argued that business owners, or stockholders, have an obligation to in some sense repay the society that allowed it to be. Others suggest that providing jobs and contributing to the tax base is repayment enough. Whichever of these perceptions one subscribes to the fact that employees of a company have but a single responsibility, to make money for the owners, is not in question. A chief executive officer may act as the ‘brains’ of the corporation but they are an employee and are bound both by ethical consideration and by federal law to make decisions intended to increase company profits. Of course, company employees are expected to obey the law and act by customary public ethical guidelines but mainly because this is in the best interest of the company and not because the company itself has a moral obligation.
Corporations social responsibility
Corporations must not be allowed to avoid their social responsibility since their endeavors affect social, economic, and environmental concerns. Their historic and vast manipulation of the political system has caused the government to desert its most basic responsibility, to the public, it is supposed to serve which has resulted in negative societal effects. “The now common practice of financing political campaigns has replaced, de facto, the social contract with a corporate one, where those who provide the money dictate the topics and direction of the governments’ agenda” (“Corporate Social Responsibility” 2008). Of course, corporate corruption in the U.S. is sadly legendary in scope. Worldcom, Tyco, and Enron are but a few examples of fraudulent practices by company heads that cost thousands of people millions of dollars including retirement benefits. The long-standing partnership between governments and corporations is well documented but this relationship has served to exploit the public rather than work for the common good. “The common thread is the lack of corporate accountability due to the extreme corruption of governments, which has moved them to abandon their social responsibility for the sake of very private interests, including their self-interest” (“Corporate Social Responsibility” 2008).
Investment in the local economy
Companies that actively take a part in improving the economic situation of their surrounding community reap the rewards in the long run. An investment in the local economy helps to ensure the financial viability of the community, an important aspect of the long-term viability of the company. To accomplish this, a company could invest in the training and education of the neighboring labor pool. In addition, it could work with local suppliers and the area’s governing body to improve infrastructure, enforcement, and regulations to enhance economic expansion therefore the commercial environment and the business itself. “Corporate leaders recognize the need to strengthen their community base. A vibrant local economy can become as important a factor in business growth as export development” (Kanaga, 1999)
During the past couple of decades, corporate scandals of the highest magnitude have shocked us all and been the focal point of many debates on many levels of the corporate, governmental, academic, and public spectrum. History has repeated itself enough times recently and society interested in healing a capitalist system that has served it so well should enact measures that would stop the seemingly endless cycle of corruption within corporations. When the people decide they want a moral, decent and ethical society, then maybe they will refocus their efforts.
Instead of imposing their morality on individuals in the form of disallowing gay marriages, for example, society should consider uniting to demand that government and corporation officials act morally and ethically. The prognosis looks dim, however. If history has taught us anything, it is that we don’t learn from history. The ideal would be to establish and maintain a culture that is motivated by profits yet does not accept less than ethical conduct. Holding personnel accountable for ethical as well as financial successes would make great inroads in curbing unethical corporate behaviors but along with this must come greater transparency at all levels of management and a better system of checks and balances throughout the organization. Leadership is the key to ethical behavioral successes in corporations and though no tactic can assure this outcome based on any defined timeline, a proactive solution such as this will create ever-narrowing parameters for corporate ethical practices (Bataille, 2003).
To do what is right and good can be embedded deeper into society as it is the inclination of people to do just that. It’s the justifications for deviance that must be modified. If unethical acts by executives of corporations are generally expected and widely tolerated by society, then this type of behavior can be easier justified by someone that has the opportunity to benefit from their unethical actions. Taking away the tolerance of a society, the mindset, the ability to justify poor ethical choices diminishes even when the opportunity presents itself.
- Bataille, Julie Green. “New Report Provides Innovative Approach to Managing Organizational Ethics.” Georgetown University Office of Communications. (2003).
- “Corporate Social Responsibility.” The Jus Semper Global Alliance (2008).
- Kanaga, William S. “Corporations Must Act Ethically.” Economic Reform Today (1999).