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Corporate responsibility

While this is not the place to discuss this topic in detail, a few things can be said of corporate responsibility in summary. This notion, to say the least, is controversial. Much of this follows from the characteristics of criminal responsibility. To be criminally responsible, one must have a guilty state of mind ( mens rea ), carry out a guilt or law-breaking act ( actus reus ), and there must be a close connection between the two such that the mens rea guided the actus reus in its design and execution. But to attribute moral responsibility to a corporation would be to anthropomorphize it, to attribute to it a personality that would include mental states and body that existed above and apart form the minds and bodies of its members or employees. One ethicist, John Ladd, warns that this stretches to a breaking point, the thin concept of moral personhood; applying this to corporations empties personhood of its content and renders the concept ineffective. Or as John Danley puts it, there is nothing wrong with the anthropomorphic bias (read focus or meaning) of moral concepts such as responsibility, agency, and personhood. See Manuel Velazquez, "Why Corporations are Not Morally Responsible for Anything They Do," Business and Professional Ethics Journal , Vol. 2, No. 3: 1-18.

Nevertheless, there are credible arguments for corporate responsibility based on the premise that attributing responsibility to corporations does not preclude holding human individuals responsible. Peter French argues that under certain conditions, the actions of human individuals can be redescribed as corporation actions. The "device" that "licenses" this redescription is called a Corporate Internal Decision Structure or CIDS. (See French, Collective and Corporate Responsibility. Complete reference below.)

    Constituents of cids

  • Corporate goals . These are either objectives found in the charter or informal ends that can be uncoveed by becoming immersed in the day to day operations of a corporation.
  • Corporate decision making and recognition procedures . These compose the grammar of corporate actions. Included would be procedures for soliciting travel funds, standard operating procedures, hiring and firing practices and other procedures that are followed for routinely corporate acts. These are at the center of attributions of corporate responsibility for these procedures are the ways in which we can see that an action has been authorized by the organization within which and for which it was performed.
  • Corporate roles . Was the action performed by an individual designed to carry out a corporate role or was this action performed by the individual in some other capacity?
  • Corporate Organizational or Management Systems . These systems display the relations of the corporate roles and the individuals occupying them. Usually portrayed by the corporate flow chart, these can display any number of kinds or types but two that come to mind. In hierarchically structured organizations power flows down the chain of command while information flows from the bottom-up; in horizontally organized corporations, power is distributed across relatively autonomous interdisciplinary work teams, each of which is designated responsible for the performance of certain tasks.

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Source:  OpenStax, Statement of values. OpenStax CNX. Jul 27, 2013 Download for free at http://cnx.org/content/col11467/1.4
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