Corporate responsibility and ethical business practice, do they exist? Are companies only interested in how much money they can make, regardless of the consequences? According to Friedman, "The business of business is business- (1970). This famous quote has been the cause of much contention over recent years, and throughout this essay, I am going to argue the case against Friedman's ideas.
Friedman says that a business is only responsible to it's shareholders, and it's prime concern is to make as much profit for them as possible. He is not totally unscrupulous though, he does recognize the need to play by the rules, however he makes it clear that companies should only do things that turn a profit, and therefore no charitable venture should be entered into. Fundamentally, I think Friedman is right, companies are there to make money, but I think it is short sighted to think that there is no greater responsibility. With the advent of the Internet, greater communications, twenty-four hour news channels and the general shrinking of the world, people's knowledge of the world around them is that much greater. People are taking an interest in more social and global issues, and thus, companies have to be more responsive to a wider set of stakeholders. There is a demand for a more ethical approach.
Larger companies, in particular, need to be aware of the scrutiny that they are under. These companies hold great power. ExxonMobil, the oil company, for example, turned in profits of $17.7billion in 2000, which was greater than the GDP of Angola ($5.9billion), Burundi ($0.7billion) and Democratic Republic of Congo ($7.0billion) put together. (Carbonnier, Dec 2001) It has been very easy for these big companies, to take advantage of the lack of legislation and government intervention in these less fortunate countries, but more recently they are beginning to be made accountable for their actions. Recently, Royal Dutch/Shell were embarrassed by revelations of their treatment of people in Nigeria (Mullins, 2002) The United Nations and government organizations have begun to build partnerships with large companies to help combat human rights issues.