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The Business Corporation: A Morally Responsible Agent
Uppsala University, Humanistisk-samhällsvetenskapliga vetenskapsområdet, Faculty of Theology, Department of Theology.
2006 (English)Conference paper (Other (popular scientific, debate etc.))
Abstract [en]

Two trends of thought dominate the business ethical scene. The first trend holds that participating in business activities is morally right provided that one focuses on doing business and not primarily on being good or acting right. Allegedly, business is a good thing basically in virtue of its efficient way of producing goods and services. The second perspective, in which ideas about corporate social responsibility and stakeholders are at home, sees ethical considerations as part of the meaning of doing business. Here, it is the alleged purpose of businesses to make the life of ordinary citizens easier. While the former emphasizes positive effects of acting with a narrow economic purpose the latter claims that business has a morally laden purpose, i.e. to contribute to the common good of the larger community.

There are two major theses in this paper. The negative thesis holds that the previous two ways of relating business and ethics are problematic. It is argued that the first fails to see and interpret the meaning of seeing business corporations as responsible moral agents. And the second fails because it blurs the conceptual differences between business activity and other kinds of activity, making the apparent as well as important differences between business corporations and e.g. charities and public hospitals invisible.

The positive thesis argues that business corporations should be seen as responsible agents with particular limitations on what they can do. This implies that businesses, like other agents, are responsible for deliberating on what conception of morality to use when examining the moral responsibilities it has and how to manage them. It is shown that a responsible determination of a moral framework can make a significant difference for how the morally relevant occurrences of business life such as e.g. taxes and reward systems, are comprehended and acted upon.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Keyword [en]
Business ethics, responsibility, agency, juridical person
National Category
Religious Studies
URN: urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-76819OAI: oai:DiVA.org:uu-76819DiVA: diva2:104731
Insänd för ev. publicering i refereegranskad tidskrift.Available from: 2006-03-08 Created: 2006-03-08

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Sundman, Per
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