The Moral Responsibility of Firms

ISBN : 9780198857051

Eric W. Orts; N. Craig Smith
256 ページ
156 x 234 mm

Individuals are generally considered morally responsible for their actions. Who or what is responsible when those individuals become part of business organizations? Can we correctly ascribe moral responsibility to the organization itself? If so, what are the grounds for this claim and to what extent do the individuals also remain morally responsible? If not, does moral responsibility fall entirely to specific individuals within the organization and can they be readily identified?

A perennial question in business ethics has concerned the extent to which business organizations can be correctly said to have moral responsibilities and obligations. In philosophical terms, this is a question of "corporate moral agency." Whether firms can be said to be moral agents and have the capacity for moral responsibility has significant practical consequences. In most legal systems in the world, business firms are recognized as "persons" with the ability to own property, to maintain and defend lawsuits, and to self-organize governance structures. However to recognize that these "business persons" can also act morally or immorally as organizations would justify the imposition of other legal constraints and normative expectations on organizations. In the criminal law, for example, the idea that an organized firm may itself have criminal culpability is accepted in many countries (such as the United States) but rejected in others (such as Germany).

This book presents contributions by leading business scholars in business ethics, philosophy, and related disciplines to extend our understanding of the "moral responsibility" of firms.


Thomas Donaldson: Preface


N. Craig Smith: The Moral Responsibility of Firms: Renewed Interest in a Perennial Question of Business Ethics

Part One

1 Philip Pettit: The Conversable, Responsible Corporation

2 Michael E. Bratman: The Intentions of a Group

3 Peter A. French: The Diachronic Moral Responsibility of Firm

4 Waheed Hussain and Joakim Sandberg: Normative Functionalism about Corporate Moral Agency

Part Two

5 John Hasnas: The Phantom Menace of the Responsibility Deficit

6 Ian Maitland: How Corporate Responsibility Undermines True Responsibility

7 David Ronnegard and Manuel Velasquez: On (Not) Attributing Moral Responsibility to Organizations

8 Amy J. Sepinwall: Blame, Emotion, and the Corporation

Part Three

9 Kendy Hess: The Unrecognized Consensus about Firm Moral Responsibility

10 Nien-he Hsieh: Corporate Moral Agency, Positive Duties, and Purpose


Eric W. Orts: The Moral Responsibility of Firms: Past, Present, and Future


Eric W. Orts is the Guardsmark Professor at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. He is a professor in the Legal Studies and Business Ethics Department with a joint appointment in the Management Department. He also directs the Initiative for Global Environmental Leadership (IGEL). His primary research and teaching interests are in corporate governance, environmental law and policy, and professional ethics. His scholarly work is widely published in academic journals and books. Prior to joining Wharton's faculty in 1991, Orts practiced law at Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison in New York City. Orts is a member of the bar of New York and the District of Columbia, and an elected member of the American Law Institute.; N. Craig Smith is the INSEAD Chaired Professor of Ethics and Social Responsibility at INSEAD, France and the Academic Director of the Corporate Social Responsibility and Ethics Research Group in the INSEAD Social Innovation Centre. He was previously on the faculties of London Business School, Georgetown University, and Harvard Business School. His research is at the intersection of business and society, encompassing business ethics, corporate social responsibility, and sustainability. He is the author, coauthor or coeditor of six books and over thirty academic journal articles.