Corporations. Their Consequences And Corporate Responsibility (660 and 305 words)

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Learning Activity #1 - Corporations and their Consequences
In this week's readings, consider the Manville case, and the far-flung consequences to having hidden the adverse affects of asbestos, which Manville manufactured, marketed and distributed.
What response is appropriate, now that we have become aware of the adverse affects on people, and in light of the huge damages not only in health issues but also in remediation requirements? How do we determine who is responsible here - corporate or individual? On what basis? Can a corporation be held to ethical standards apart from the individual ethical determinations of the people acting on behalf of the corporation?
Please do not focus on the legal aspects of damages, criminal charges, or reparations. Try to maintain focus on ethical questions within this unique context where the destructive power of certain individual actions was multiplied by mass corporate distribution of material ultimately found to be dangerous to people.
This learning activity will allow you to consider just what a corporation is, and how it can transcend human action and time limitations. It "acts" through human action - through joint human action - which greatly multiplies the possible power and impact of what then becomes corporate action. Corporate "action" and the impact of that action can be much more than the simple sum of its parts. The difficulty arises when individual human action is combined within the corporation, ultimately producing an unethical act or unethical result. This gives rise to the consideration of whether we can effectively "punish" a corporation - or whether punishment is effective only against "real" people. Here, you may also wish to remember that the corporate form was initially intended to limit individual liability. Perhaps this is a case of it doing too well what it was intended initially to do. Should there be the equivalent of a corporate "death penalty" for corporations that have committed what amounts to crimes against humanity? Here we come full circle to whether or not a corporation is capable of ethical intent, apart from the ethical intentions of the humans who act on its behalf.

Learning Activity #2 - Corporate Responsibility
What does "Social Responsibility" actually mean, from a corporate perspective? Do some research into the kinds of social responsibility programs currently being pursued by U.S. corporations and report on what you find. Generally, what areas and/or values are being focused on? Pick one program that you admire and describe it. Why do you admire it? What values are emphasized? Does the program correspond to any of the ethical theories we have looked at? Analyze the program from an ethical standpoint, including considering how to balance profit-making with social responsibility, especially where pursuing social responsibility might adversely impact profits.

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The appropriate response in the Manville case would have been to take the findings of the research that linked asbestos inhalation to lung diseases seriously and taking remedial measures instead of suppressing the research. The company should have revealed the information to employees instead of concealing it, and it should have sought ways of developing safer working conditions. Manville had a duty to its employees to ensure that their working environment was safe, thus the company acted unethically by hiding information from employees and knowingly exposing them to danger. The company ought to have set clear ethical guidelines for its executives to promote acceptable managerial behavior, and in so doing it would have prevented the unethical practices that occurred (Gellerman, 1986).
Both individuals and corporations bear responsibility for unethical behavior. However, as employers corporations must develop internal policies and procedures to uphold ethical standards. These...
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