Future Generations and Business Ethics

Business Ethics Quarterly 14 (1):47-69 (2004)
Abstract
Companies have a share in our common responsibility to future generations. Hitherto, this responsibility has been all butneglected in the business ethics literature. This paper intends to make up for that omission. A strong case for our moral responsibility tofuture generations can be established on the grounds of moral rights theory, utilitarianism and justice theory. The paper analyses two practical cases in environmental policy, in order to come to grips with the complicated ethical issues involved in the responsibility to future generations. The cases deal with the management of finite energy sources and of vulnerable resources of biodiversity. The ethical issues involved in these cases have an important bearing on business ethics: future generations should be included among the stakeholders of the firm. The paper concludes with a plea to institutionalize a “third arena” for debate and deliberation on the protection of the interests of future generations, next to the arenas of the government and the market. Companies should participate in this third arena, led by a participatory ethics
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