For Better or For Worse: Corporate Responsibility Beyond “Do No Harm”

Business Ethics Quarterly 20 (2):275-283 (2010)
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Abstract

ABSTRACT:Do corporations have a duty to promote just institutions? Agreeing with Hsieh’s recent contribution, this article argues that they do. However, contrary to Hsieh, it holds that such a claim cannot be advanced convincingly only by reference to the negative duty to do no harm. Instead, such a duty necessarily must be grounded in positive obligation. In the search of a foundation for a positive duty for corporations to further just institutions, Stephen Kobrin’s notion of “private political authority” offers a promising connecting point. Political authority implies political responsibility; Political obligation, however, includes more than merely not doing any harm—it is essentially positive obligation. The implications of the new political responsibilities of multinational corporations may even go far beyond the particular duty to promote just institutions; they may be symptomatic for a much more profound shift from an individual to a collective age.

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