Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Business and Moral Responsibility

Trust in the LORD with all your heart,
  and do not lean on your own understanding.
In all your ways acknowledge him,
  and he will make straight your paths. – Proverbs 3:5-6

I recently read an interesting article in the Wall Street Journal about corporate responsibility. Do companies have any responsibility to society?

The article outlined two views on this.

The first view is summed up by the Nobel Prize winning economist Milton Friedman. He said "there is one and only one social responsibility of business—to use its resources and engage in activities designed to increase its profits so long as it stays within the rules of the game."

The second view came from the CEO of Starbucks, Howard Schultz. Mr. Schultz said "Companies that hold on to the old-school, singular view of limiting their responsibilities to making a profit will not only discover it is a shallow goal but an unsustainable one…Values increasingly drive consumer and employee loyalties. Money and talent will follow those companies whose values are compatible."

If I were to choose between the two I’d choose option two but for a slightly different reason. Sometimes we forget that corporations aren’t these huge monolithic entities. They are organizations of people and assets; but PEOPLE run them. Given that people are the ones making the decisions then are there moral obligations involved in business leadership? Should we bring the morals that we have at home into the workplace?

Of course there are limits to this. We can’t go around work slapping people on the forehead with our Bibles. Not only is that rude but we’ll probably get fired or sued. But if we are to be morally consistent people shouldn’t our basic values permeate through all that we do? What happens when maximizing profit conflicts with the welfare of your employees or the common good? What would God think if the companies we run don’t follow the basic tenants of our faith that we claim to follow in our personal lives?

I believe that we should be morally consistent with all that we do. Of course no one is perfect, we are all going to make mistakes along the way but if our hearts are in the right place then everything that we have control over in our lives should reflect that. That right place is rooted in love because God is love.

Food for Thought: Do you think that businesses have a moral responsibility? Why or why not?

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A Convo With God by Clarence Mitchell III is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
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