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Should corporations have "moral responsibility"? Show more Show less
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With BP’s Deepwater Horizon oil spill, Volkswagen’s emissions scandal, and Apple’s ‘batterygate’, there is no shortage of corporations behaving in a morally reprehensible way to cut costs or increase profits. Should corporations have morals? Are business ethics important? Is it a firm’s collective responsibility to behave in an ethical way?

No, corporations shouldn't have moral responsibility Show more Show less

Corporations are the sum of individual decisions. They don't know right from wrong and cannot be punished. Therefore, it makes far more sense to limit morals to the individual.
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Corporations are prisoners of economic incentive

Corporations are prisoners of economics, leaving them unable to have an attitude towards social good or a conscience.


Persons responsibilities are to think about the social and physical wellbeing of others. Corporations' responsibilities are purely financial.

The Argument

A corporation's role is not to set public morality and values. That is the job of the public, and to an extent, the government. It would abhorrent for Coca Cola, for example, to decide on a set of values then attempt to impose them on the world. Therefore, morals are beyond the scope of what corporations are supposed to do. Under capitalism, we expect corporations to protect the financial interests of investors and employees.

Counter arguments

Thinking about corporate responsibility in this way would have prevented the development of the academic field of business ethics. A corporation can, and should, have morals. Without them, we cannot hold companies to account for negligent and deliberately harmful behaviour, nor can we expect them to abide by any laws that govern their behaviour outside of financial legislation. We also lose any ability to hold the individual decision-maker responsible when they are acting on behalf of a corporation in the pursuit of profits.



A corporation's role, under capitalism, is to protect its employees' and shareholders' financial interests. Any deviation from this clearly-defined role would surmount to private overreach.


[P1] A company's role is to safeguard financial interests. [P2] A person's role is to consider the health and wellbeing of others. [P3] Therefore, people should have morals, companies should not.

Rejecting the premises

[Rejecting P1] A company has the responsibility to consider their impact beyond finances and profits.


This page was last edited on Thursday, 5 Mar 2020 at 14:13 UTC

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