With BP’s Deepwater Horizon oil spill, Volkswagen’s emissions scandal, and Apple’s ‘batterygate’, there is no shortage of corporations behaving in a morally reprehensible way to cut costs or increase profits. Should corporations have morals? Are business ethics important? Is it a firm’s collective responsibility to behave in an ethical way?
No, corporations shouldn't have moral responsibility
Corporations are the sum of individual decisions. They don't know right from wrong and cannot be punished. Therefore, it makes far more sense to limit morals to the individual.
Corporations depend on individual decisions
The direction and approach corporations take depends on individual decisions.
Once a corporation attempts to force its values on its employees, it risks dehumanizing them. "Moral responsibility" is a message that so clearly disenfranchises the individuals within that company who must fall under and conform to that ambiguous mantra, blanketing over them with a meaningless phrase that steals their senses of expression.
"Moral responsibility" is big business so transparently attempting to seem human-like or good while ultimately missing the entire meaning of the phrase itself. Only an individual can enact in a "moral" way, while a big company cannot possibly inhabit the inner morality of each and every one of its employees.
Yes, corporations should have moral responsibility
Corporations are conversible agents. Their message can be different from that of the individuals that make up the corporation. They also erode individuality. Therefore, corporations must have defined morals to fill the ethical space left by the individual.
Corporations are conversable agents
Corporations are able to use their voice to convey their objectives and mission statement. Therefore, they should have moral agency that guides that voice.