Can a corporation have a conscience?
In this case study, authors Kenneth E. Goodpaster and John B. Matthews Jr. argue that corporations should act and behave as if they were a moral person. Southern Steel Company was the case in discussion. This company – during the rational tension of 1960’s - faced pressure from the press and government to explain and modify its unethical policies regarding discrimination within its plants and in city where the company was located.
Unethical behavior not only affects employees and managers; it also affects the company’s profits and reputation. Goodpaster and Matthews believe that corporations are entities with the same moral responsibilities as a person. They point out three factors that compose moral responsibility for individuals and corporations. The first of these factors is the idea of accountability. Goodpaster and Matthews explain that just as individuals are responsible for their ethical and moral actions, corporations are also responsible for their ethical and moral actions. This belief is contrary to the traditional view that the only responsibility of a corporation is to make profits while remaining within the bounds of the law. The second factor is responsibility they conquer that corporations and individuals are responsible to adhere to the social norms associated with their role in society. Which means corporations should act and behave in a way that is expected by society. The third aspect of moral responsibility discussed is decision making. Goodpaster and Matthews believe that this third part of moral responsibility is the most important and that both individuals and corporations should use moral reasoning to make decisions that agree with moral social norms.
Goodpaster and Matthews believe decision making is composed of two parts. The first of these two parts is what they call “rationality” or rational decision making. They explain this concept as