The Role of the Corporation in Fostering Sustainable Peace

By Fort, Timothy L.; Schipani, Cindy A. | Vanderbilt Journal of Transnational Law, March 2002 | Go to article overview

The Role of the Corporation in Fostering Sustainable Peace


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


ABSTRACT

This Article demonstrates that there is a plausible, conceptual relationship among corporate governance, business ethics, and sustainable peace. First, the Authors begin by outlining the benefits of and protests against globalization and the reciprocal benefits between geopolitical entities and economic activity. The Article then details specific historical events that foreshadow patterns in the relationship between business and sustainable peace. In looking more closely at those patterns, the Authors argue that through economic progress and mitigation of rivalries in the workplace, multinational corporations can contribute to sustainable peace. Thus, if this argument is correct, the stakes increase dramatically for corporations to consider these issues in their governance practices and for governments to create legislative frameworks to encourage such responsible practices. The Authors propose that incorporating attributes of peaceful societies with current successful corporate governance regimes will help to achieve both economic progress and social harmony. The Article concludes that the future will offer increasingly precise corporate models that contribute to the reduction of bloodshed.

I. INTRODUCTION

On May 20, 2001, a front page New York Times news story reported that Hindus in scattered areas of the world are protesting McDonald's decision to cook its french fries in beef fat, although in 1990 it had announced that it would cook its fries only in vegetable oil. (1) As a result, "[T]he news ricocheted to India, where restaurant windows were smashed, statues of Ronald McDonald were smeared with cow dung, and Hindu nationalist politicians called for the chain to be evicted from the country." (2) The controversy is not the first McDonald's has faced. A well-toned Prince Philip of England stated, "You people [McDonald's] are destroying the rainforests of the world by grazing your cheap cattle." (3) And even as McDonald's CEO, Jack Greenberg, acknowledged and defended McDonald's record, the company is challenged on issues from undermining local farmers, threatening local culture, using genetically modified organisms in its food, relying on hormonally treated beef, opposing local unionization, distributing unsafe toys to children, and employing child labor. (4) Such a seemingly ubiquitous problem-causing image may be why another journal not known for its left-leaning views, The Economist, jokingly began a recent story with "Scientists at the McDonald's Centre for Obesity Research suggest that eating a hamburger a day actually reduces cholesterol levels." (5) This appeared in a story suggesting that the scientific community is beholden to the corporations funding its research. (6)

On the other hand, in addition to the employment McDonald's brings to local areas, its influence on economic affairs and perhaps even peace, has been trumpeted as well. In a more serious vein--at least somewhat so--The Economist uses the price of a McDonald's hamburger in different countries as a way to assess distortions in the exchange rate of currencies. (7) Thomas Friedman, the National Book Award-winning New York Times columnist, has advanced a theory called "The Golden Arches Theory of Conflict Prevention," claiming "no two countries that both had McDonald's had fought a war against each other since each got its McDonald's." (8) Friedman amended this theory slightly in light of the 1999 conflict between NATO and Yugoslavia, where all countries had McDonald's. Indeed, he contended the turning point of that conflict occurred when NATO bombed the power grids and, therefore, eliminated the benefits of a networked global economy for the people, including the convenience of consuming a Big Mac. (9) Thus, although there is now, according to Friedman, an exception to the Golden Arches Theory, the power of globalization works to mitigate the extent of conflict. …

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