There’s a fascinating way forward on the icky subject of corporations at The Nation right now:
[…] a promising alternative [to the current figure of exclusively profit-driven corporations] is emerging: an entity called the Benefit Corporation, which has been written into law in Maryland, New Jersey, Virginia and Vermont, and is moving quickly in other states too. The new laws permit companies to join the profit motive with the purpose of making a “positive impact on society and the environment.” In their articles of incorporation, Benefit Corporations declare their public missions—things like bringing a local river back to life, providing affordable housing, facilitating animal adoptions or promoting adult literacy. Under the law they must go regularly before a third-party validator like B Lab, the visionary Philadelphia-based alliance of more than 400 so-called B Corps across the country, to prove that they are not only meeting their goals but treating their employees, customers, communities and local environments with the same respect as their shareholders. […]
This piece is worth reading in full.
The issue, of course, as we have known for too many years now, and ever since Milton Friedman’s moral imperative to make a profit crystallised the greedy rights of traditional corporations to be responsible to their shareholders and to no one else, is that too many corporate bodies – if not all – attempt to externalise as many of their costs onto the society they refuse to contribute fully to. In a sense, and if we are to believe that corporate figures are essentially “people” (more here), then from entities aimed at generating wealth – and making society more functional instead of less – these behemoths of transnational business have turned into corporations on benefit. Just like, in fact, some of those people in our society which those on the right are happy to accuse of fraudulent behaviour.
Thus it is that these gigantic companies end up sucking so much societal wealth into the pockets of a generally concentrated population of shareholders rather than generating it for a wider interest.
If people on benefit are wrong to live off the state indefinitely, then surely – where we accept corporations are as near to the legal figure of people as makes no difference at all – corporate bodies are also committing a delinquency.
And if not, I am minded to wonder, then please tell me why not.