How moral can a company be when it is principally bound to please the market? That is the question addressed in this chapter. It begins by considering the importance of the freedom to act for all persons, including legal persons, when they are required to act morally. The chapter argues that the market fetters that freedom, but it also considers scholarship which maintains that being bound to the market does not prevent companies engaging in moral decision making. The chapter goes on to consider the historical shift between periods when political policy reduced the effect of the market on corporate decision making, and those (including the present) when the financial market has dominated. It then considers the sorts of frameworks that might act as a bulwark against market-based decision making and enable corporate morality. This draws on the discussion in the previous chapter and introduces the focus on corporate social responsibility. In discussing corporate social responsibility, this chapter considers how the market is often elicited as a driving force for this form of morality. It considers the problems with the claim that there are market-based reasons for pursuing corporate social responsibility and argues accordingly that corporate social responsibility has low social ambitions. Finally, it considers whether mandating morality is possible given the pressure of the market, and utilises the example of mandatory corporate social responsibility in India as a case study which demonstrates the obstacles to doing so.
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- Can Companies be Moral? and the Role of Corporate Social Responsibility
Professor of Law Lorraine Talbot
- Macmillan Education UK
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