Can Corporations Be Morally Responsible? Aristotle, Stakeholders and the Non-Sale of Hershey

Philosophy of Management 5 (3):23-30 (2005)
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Abstract

Stakeholder theory is a significant development in the drive to provide a foundation for intuitions concerning the moral responsibility connected to corporate decision making. The move to include the interests of workers, consumers, the communities and biological environment in which the corporations instantiations are located run counter to the view in which shareholders’ interests are paramount. The non-sale of the Hershey Foods company to Wrigley was the ultimate result of a massive call by stakeholders to put other interests before shareholder financial stakes, yet the discussion was notably not held in terms of stakeholder theory. Rather, the discussion was explicitly Aristotelian with opponents of the view arguing that the sale was improper because it ran counter to the essence or telos of the organisation. This case is no doubt unusual in that the founding documents of the organisation were appealed to in order to justify the claim that the essence of the corporation was to do more than enrich the shareholders. This paper intends to examine whether, in spite of this anomaly, the Hershey case hasanything general to say about the foundations of corporate responsibility

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Steve Gimbel
Gettysburg College

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