Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Evil Corporations, Or Corporate Evil?

The Root Of All Evil
An acquaintance of mine believes that the corporation is the root of all that is evil in this world.  Personally, I don't believe corporations are any more evil than nuclear power is.  By that, I mean to say that nuclear weapons are a misuse of nuclear power.  Nuclear power, like the corporation, is not bad in itself.  Whether corporations are good or bad for society depends on the people within those companies.  To say that corporations have no conscience, is to see them only as legal entities.

Life and Death?
Despite all of the hype and war-related allegories, business is not war.  It can be a struggle, but very seldom is somebody literally holding a gun to one's head.  Terrible things happen in war because of the fierce struggle between life and death.  The death of a company is the death of a legal entity.  Sure, real people lose their jobs when a company ceases to exist, but to compare that to people being killed, is, at the very least, an extreme comparison.

To say the profit motive is the reason "companies" misbehave, is to excuse the behaviour of the people running the company.  Why not just assess a fine to the company for wrong-doing?  Again, to hold the company accountable for the actions of people within it, only shields those people and allows for such bad behaviour in the future.  Worse yet, it passes the real costs onto shareholders (which is why we don't want to invest in such organizations).  Yet, time and time again, I hear the talking heads in the media recommending an investment in so-called sin stocks, for example.  Take the profits and give some to charity, they say.

I believe in the saying, "If they will do it with you, they will do it to you!"  Apart from the fact nobody is holding the bad guys accountable, these days, I don't understand why companies fail to see the benefit of acting in an ethical manner, and why the media and analysts excuse any such bad behaviour.  Stephen Covey Jr. wrote a whole book on the concept of how much easier (and less expensive) it is to transact business in an atmosphere of trust.  When people don't trust you to do things in their best interest, they tend to need more convincing, and bigger guarantees (and more lawyers).  If people representing a company have no difficulty selling a product which is dangerous to its clients, how much more regard do you think they will have for outside investors?

By The Numbers
Just for giggles, I checked out the curriculum of a popular MBA (Masters in Business Administration) program.  While it talks about learning how to maximize or minimize everything and anything business related, it failed to mention a single topic which might be seen as ethics related.  This further contributes to my belief that business, these days, is thought to be about the numbers, and nothing to do with ensuring an atmosphere of trust within which all acts of commerce would benefit.

Those Days Are Numbered
Again, I just don't understand what they are thinking.  Any entrepreneur will tell us we can only ever expect to do business with the people who actually trust us.  Have corporate business people never heard of word-of-mouth, and social media (which I have heard described as word-of-mouth on steroids)!  The idea that there is a sucker born every minute may even be true, but no company can afford to be seen acting on such a belief in today's world.  How long or well would Toyota have survived the recent bashing they received had it not been for the integrity of senior management, and their putting customers first?  The "old boy" network is dying out.  As long as there are other companies willing to remain loyal to the old way of doing things, they will be able to find buyers for whatever they are selling, but those days are going to end soon enough.

Return On Investment
As for the banksters?  They will continue to hide out within and behind their organizations until regulators and customers hold them accountable.  Yet, that day, too, will come.  I suppose they think, until then, who cares?  I say, use and invest in the companies run by people that aren't just trying to stuff their own pockets.  As in the case of Toyota it is clear that integrity is, in fact, economical in ways that can't be achieved by adopting less than ethical approaches.  While I think of it, maybe somebody should let the MBA students in on that well kept secret!  

Do you have an opinion as to whether or not you think corporations are evil?



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