Corporate Responsibility, Part 2

Another area where corporations have increasing influenced the modern world and where their responsibilities are in question is in social issues. Lately, many corporations have made public their opinions on LGBT rights, most notably in North Carolina. This stance by corporations is driven almost entirely by profit and by keeping their own employees happy. LGBT consumers represent an enormous and under-exploited source of revenues for many corporations so it makes sense that they advocate for LGBT rights.

Worldwide, however, populations are not as sanguine in their debates about social issues. In Pakistan, for example, you may be hacked to death for promoting Western values of inclusion and human rights. Coca-cola may be all for LGBT rights in the United States, but is mute on the subject in Pakistan. As drivers of social change, a globalized corporation can pick and choose where it wants to make a principled stand.

The real fear is that ultimately a corporation may dictate what social norms are acceptable and which are not, that they will have more power than a government or other groups that do not have an explicit profit motive. Is it dangerous for social wellbeing to be tied to an entity that only acts in self-interest?

Currently in the United States the government is more than capable of enforcing basic standards of human rights and essential moral behavior, but around the world the power of corporations to influence and enforce social mores could lead to a moral relativism. This could have the ironic effect of reducing the acceptance of supposedly universal values of human rights which are advocated by globalized organizations because of the ancillary effects of globalization. The power of the consumer is the only possible way of putting effective pressure on corporations to promote the same values everywhere. In a globalized world the citizenry need to have an appreciation of the struggles of people in other areas so as to promote increased equality and spread universal values. Without the participation of citizens, a corporation, by reinforcing the views it sees as profitable, can increase strife between peoples and societies.

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