Business ethics and stakeholder theory

Business Ethics Quarterly 12 (2):113-142 (2002)


Abstract: Stakeholder theorists have typically offered both a business case and an ethics case for business ethics. I evaluate arguments for both approaches and find them wanting. I then shift the focus from ethics to law and ask: “Why should corporations obey the law?” Contrary to what shareholder theories typically imply, neoclassical or profit maximization theories of the firm can offer answers based only on instrumental justifications. Instrumental justifications for obeying the law, however, are pragmatically and normatively incoherent. This is because the modern corporation is a legal artifact. It exists because communities create the legal framework necessary for its existence. Individual corporations can therefore be said to owe their existence to a partnership (what might be called a social contract) between shareholders and governments, a partnership that is itself built on the shared though often implicit understanding that corporations have an unconditional (categorical) obligation both to obey the law and to treat their stakeholders ethically while generating wealth for their shareholders

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References found in this work

Corporations and Morality.Thomas Donaldson - 1982 - Journal of Business Ethics 1 (3):251-253.
Business Ethics in Canada.Deborah Poff & Wilfrid Waluchow - 1988 - Journal of Business Ethics 7 (9):714-722.
Functional Words, Facts and Values.A. W. Cragg - 1976 - Canadian Journal of Philosophy 6 (1):77 - 94.

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