Can a Corporation have Moral Values?

September 3, 2010 at 8:35 AM 1 comment

I’ve been working with Portland’s software industry, trying to help them advise the city government on new economic policies that could support growth.

As I listened to the software community, what struck me was the importance of values in defining policy. What my city’s software developers want is not just a policy that supports the economics of the industry, but also the values of the industry – in other words, the members’ personal values.

Values define a community – that’s why there’s no such thing as an amoral community.

However, when the US Supreme Court gave the rights of personhood to corporations, they didn’t take into account that most corporations value just one thing: profit.

Most of us want corporations to have values besides profit. But what exactly does this mean? Fortunately, an organization in Philadelphia has arrived at a definition of what those values should be.

B Corporations are corporations which have been certified as meeting standards for social and environmental standards, as well as integrity in protecting stakeholder interests. Their legal structure promotes accountability, rather than resists it. Consumers know that when they support a B corporation they’re supporting their own community values.

It’s like an ISO9000 for humanity.

I’ve always been against giving personhood to corporations. But since that’s the case, let’s see corporations act like real people, with values and a community. Telling us they care doesn’t cut it – we’ve had it up to here with “we care” ads. The B Corporation Certification tells us that a company is walking the walk.

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1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. David Childers  |  September 7, 2010 at 7:51 AM

    Thompson,

    I honestly don’t know if I can use the words ethical or moral when I think of most corporations. I do use the words integrity, fairness and sustainable culture as values they should strive for. Your comment about profit is correct but it has long been shown that companies not interested in the expedient gains oftentimes characteristic of a fraud-based environment actually perform better over the long run.

    Moreover, it has been proven that companies that take a sustained view provide a greater profit and return on shareholder’s investment than those that don’t.

    Specifically, it’s the investment community that truly doesn’t understand a moral compass, frankly because there is no reward from Wall Street for operating your business with integrity. The closest we get to a ‘values’ statement in many financial companies is a cursory corporate social responsibility policy. Unfortunately, we live in a quarter to quarter world with the majority of all trades conducted by computer, without any emotion or consideration for the values you discuss.

    David

    Reply

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Thompson Morrison

Thompson Morrison

About Thompson

As CEO of FUSE Insight, Thompson Morrison uses powerful new web interviewing technologies to help businesses better align their brand with the needs and aspirations of their customers. Learn more at www.fuseinsight.com

 

"The single most significant strategic strength that an organization can have is not a good strategic plan, but a commitment to strategic listening on the part of every member of the organization." -- Tom Peters

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