How can Corporate Responsibility be formulated?
The debate surrounding whether corporations can be deemed to be entities that can assume moral responsibility for their rights and wrongs is a complex matter. Joel Bakan’s provocative book, ’The Corporation’, attempted to address this issue. The premise of the book is that assigning legal obligations to corporations makes it unable to make decisions except in completely self-interested ways. That, in fact, the corporation is a psychopath, which is “by any reasonable measure hopelessly and unavoidably demented”.
While Bakan’s assumption that a corporations’ failure to decide on the moral rationale to stop hurting society is an influential one, there is sufficient business ethics literature for corporations to take some degree of responsibility. These contradictions of Bakan’s work are mainly founded on the idea that in order to allocate responsibility to corporations, it is important to demonstrate that in addition to legal independence from their members, they also have an agency independent of their individuals.
With that in mind, the first argument is that apart from members taking it upon themselves to make decisions within businesses, every corporation has a ‘corporate internal decision structure’ that bring together pre-determined goals in with corporate decisions. Therefore, for the most part, corporate actions cannot be allocated to any individual’s choices, as such an internal decision structure is manifested in various elements acting together, as a result making it nearly impossible to pinpoint the individual solely responsible for an action.