Academic journal article Review of Business

Corporate Citizenship

Academic journal article Review of Business

Corporate Citizenship

Article excerpt

If business defines all of its actions in terms of its own interests, irrespective of its impact on the larger society, then clearly some powerful entity must represent the interests of society to protect society against the degradations of powerful self-interest bodies. The visible hand of government must be adversarial in order to represent broader interests. It must grow ever larger in order to "develop" a balance of adversarial power against that of the self-interest power of business.

Business, without any moral obligation to its environment, must be inspected, watched over, policed, regulated, and imposed upon, since following economic theory it has no interests but its own. It can choose to be society's enemy, the environment's undoing, people's destruction and debilitation, commit fraud and deceit against the government, destroy the economic well being of communities, regions and the nation itself (Dryke, 1981).

The perpetuation of an economic system of thought and action which denies the intimate connection of the business to its broader environment has stunted the evolution of economic meaning. The existence of numerous small units of business, without concentration of power and resources, can be permitted the "freedom of self-interest", while the existence of larger and more powerful corporations and business enterprises require the responsibility of relationship.

This modern context of business involves the evolution of thought beyond the trite cliches of efficiency. This evolution clearly means the responsibility of the large corporation to the interdependent entities which are bound up with its functioning. Efficiency as an economic concept is defined totally in terms of internal benefit.

The issues of corporate responsibility involve the integration of new ideas relative to the responsibilities of business and its people. The ongoing theory of the corporate executive's responsibility (to the shareholder alone) is not viable. The internal maximization of profit irrespective of the corporate impact on the external environment is not viable. Self-interest rationality as an exclusive norm for corporate decision making is not viable. Society is put in jeopardy if powerful self-interest has no constraints beyond its own interest.

Responsibility and citizenship are based on the significance and importance of relationships. It is precisely for this reason that a corporation functioning exclusively from the "idea-set" of internal efficiency and profit maximization cannot integrate an ethical or responsible construct into its functioning. A society that accepts a basic economic and business theory that denies the significance of relationships (unless they are of self-benefit) is acting ingenuously when it critiques business people for following the theory.

Is corporate responsibility expected in a modern society? The answer is simple, but the path to the answer is complex. Safety and health standards, pollution standards, affirmative action and employee rights, the current direction towards day care legislation, factory closing laws, discrimination and unlawful firing, and conservation demands represent a developing "business definition" coming from the society. However, the language is harsh and the combatants face each other as enemies doing battle with each other.

In order to speak of corporate citizenship it is necessary to define business not as an isolated sub-system of society but as a critical integrated pan of the total society. The family, religion, the press, the legal system, the government fold into each other in order to serve the common interests of the society as a whole. No one institution functions as an independent and separate sub-system. The family socializes and trains its members to participate. The religious system attempts to strengthen the moral and social commitment of people to each other and the society. The legal system attempts to codify that which is thought to be in the best interests of the society as a whole. …

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