Responsibility in World Business: Managing Harmful Side-Effects of Corporate Activity

By Lene Bomann-Larsen; Oddny Wiggen | Go to book overview

5
Reconstructing the principle of
double effect: Towards fixing
the goalposts of corporate
responsibility

Lene Bomann-Larsen

This chapter discusses the advantages of relating the company's scope of responsibility to its sphere of activity. I will attempt to demonstrate how the principle of double effect (PDE) serves both to demarcate and to amplify corporate ethical responsibility,1 including complicity as coresponsibility. The PDE augments responsibility when opposed to too narrow a view of responsibility (promoted primarily by companies) that denies responsibility for side-effect harm on stakeholders. Simultaneously, the PDE restricts responsibility when compared with too broad and encompassing a notion of responsibility that causes a “moving of goalposts”, is unfair to companies and may undermine incentives to improve performance/investment in developing countries (promoted by many non-governmental organizations). This entails discussing how the PDE can help clarify the issue of complicity as well as what may be the reasonable content of “corporate citizenship”. I contend that the PDE may serve to “fix the goalposts” of corporate ethical responsibility and complicity and create a solid base for addressing critical issues.


Corporations and intentions

Though the reconstructed principle of double effect (which is introduced in the next chapter of this book) avoids explicit use of intentional language, a distinction between the intended and the unintended is still im

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