A few years ago -- around the time of the 2010
Citizens United decision -- I was thinking about "corporate
citizenship" and corporate "speech."
These ideas don't make sense to me. Corporations are a legal construct --
something made by humans -- and yet we've given them human rights, as it
Then I started to compare human behavior to corporate
behavior. Though I'm no expert in human behavior, I'm pretty knowledgeable
about corporate behavior. Corporate behavior is determined by the goal of
profit maximization while it seems to me that human behavior is unlimited and
dependent upon experience and situation. Humans have feelings and desires. Corporations
do not. With these thoughts in mind, I began to make lists of typical behaviors
in regards to ethics, accountability and modes of functioning.
I find myself coming back to these lists often --- they
may not be perfect indicators of all human behavior but they seem pretty solid
regarding corporations. These "corporate citizens" we've created
underlie so much of my current thinking. Who are they speaking for when they
speak? Who benefits when they lobbying government? Who is helped
when they contribute
to political campaigns? And most importantly -- if they are citizens in
their own right, then to whom are corporations accountable?
View a related slideshow on SlideShare.
Read more blog posts on corporate governance at the Robert
A.G. Monks blog
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