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Corporate responsibility

Jensen, Karsten Klint (2006) Corporate responsibility. Paper at: The 6th Congress of the European Society for Agricultural and Food Ethics, Wageningen.

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Appeals to corporate responsibility often simply take for granted that businesses have ethical responsibilities that go beyond just respecting the law. This paper addresses arguments to the effect that businesses have no such responsibilities. The interesting claim is not that businesses have no ethical responsibility at all but that their primal responsibility is to increase their profits. The extent to which there is reason to take such arguments seriously delineates the limits of corporate responsibility.
It is shown that Milton Friedman’s famous right-based argument fails, because it assumes social responsibility to imply that the corporate executive acts against the interests of the share holders. But why should not share holders be ethical responsible? However, a more pragmatic but better argument refers to the division labour between the market and the political level: the market works most efficiently if consumers and businesses make decisions based on their preferences for consumption and profit, respectively. The flipside of this coin makes it the job of the political level to ensure that the market works within an ethically fair framework.
The implications of this argument are demonstrated. Most importantly, the argument presupposes that there is a democratic regulation of the market. If there is not – which at least to some extent appears to be the case with multi national corporations – then the ethical responsibility stays with the business itself. Interestingly, the cases where people tend to level ethical requirements directly at businesses seem to be exactly this kind of cases

EPrint Type:Conference paper, poster, etc.
Type of presentation:Paper
Keywords:Democracy, Efficiency, Ethical responsibility, Free rider, Rights
Subjects: Values, standards and certification > Consumer issues
Research affiliation: Denmark > DARCOF III (2005-2010) > CONCEPTS - The Future Outlook for the Organic Market in Denmark
Deposited By: Krarup, Senior Research Fellow Signe
ID Code:11340
Deposited On:09 Oct 2007
Last Modified:12 Apr 2010 07:35
Document Language:English
Refereed:Peer-reviewed and accepted

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