Corporate Governance and Sustainable Peace: Intra-Organizational Dimensions of Business Behavior and Reduced Levels of Violence (+)

By Fort, Timothy L.; Schipani, Cindy A. | Vanderbilt Journal of Transnational Law, March 2003 | Go to article overview
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Corporate Governance and Sustainable Peace: Intra-Organizational Dimensions of Business Behavior and Reduced Levels of Violence (+)

Fort, Timothy L., Schipani, Cindy A., Vanderbilt Journal of Transnational Law

The Articles and Commentary in this Symposium represent the essential theme of the second William Davidson Institute Conference on Corporate Governance and Sustainable Peace held at the University of Michigan in November 2002. The general theme of this and the first conference was to explore whether business may be conducted in ways to help reduce violence in society. Both conferences were funded through the generosity of The William Davidson Institute at the University of Michigan Business School, the Initiative for Social Innovation Through Business of The Aspen Institute and Dr. Erika O. Parker, in memory of her late husband, Edwin C. (Ted) Parker.

The first conference, held in November 2001, addressed the general question of what impact, if any, corporations might have on peace throughout society. (1) The basic conclusion of that conference was that there is a plausible relationship between business and peace. (2) In this second conference, the participants looked more closely at the corporation considering whether there were particular activities, practices, and structures that might promote the goal of peace. Thus, the 2002 conference focused primarily on intra-organizational themes.

The Articles of this conference constitute a focused discussion of factors that may allow businesses to contribute to peace. Prominent among these themes are notions of encouraging voice within the corporation, sometimes undergirded by property rights; encouraging less autocratic and less hierarchical workplace environments; reforming board accounting standards to satisfactorily account for risk; practicing gender equity, particularly in promotion and hiring, as well as in prevention of harassment; considering the moral reasons why business may adopt these practices; and building a sense of flourishing communities within business. Business ethicists have long pointed to factors such as these as being important attributes of responsible corporations. The linkage to sustainable peace, however, suggests a teleological end and justificatory explanation for why business executives should practice ethical business behavior. In short, if businesses can reduce incidences of violence by attending to these issues, then there is a strong reason--namely, the reduction of bloodshed--for corporate practices to be reconsidered.

This Symposium consists of two sections. The first Section presents the scholarly articles written for the conference. The second Section is comprised of commentary from the conference, originally prepared as keynote speeches or panelist presentations.


In the opening Article entitled, Adapting Corporate Governance for Sustainable Peace, Timothy Fort and Cindy Schipani argue that contemporary political theory suggests a greater role for corporations to play in international relations. (3) Currently, even under balance-of-power formulations, corporations hold a greater position of power vis-a-vis the rest of the world, including nation-states, than perhaps at any other time in world history. Accordingly, there is at least the opportunity for corporations to have an impact on issues of violence. The Article discusses the corporate governance structures prevalent in the United States, Germany, and Japan, and then proposes a central set of corporate goals that are both consistent with each governance regime and yet directs corporations toward the goal of sustainable peace. (4)

Caryn Beck-Dudley and Steven H. Hanks develop a normative model for considering how corporations can be authentic communities in their Article On Virtue and Peace: Creating a Workplace Where People Can Flourish. (5) Their theory is that in becoming authentic communities, businesses will be in a better position to foster virtues that may have positive spillover effects into the local community. (6) Beck-Dudley and Hanks adopt an explicitly Aristotelian formulation of the corporation, drawing heavily on the work of John Finnis and Robert Solomon, to argue for a vision of a cooperative corporate community.

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