By: Gerald P George, Thomas J. Fewer (Georgetown University), and Quentin Dupont (Georgetown University)
There is a growing expectation that businesses take more active roles in addressing societal problems- but what does this look like? Building from recent research on the idea of corporate purpose, or the essence of an organization’s existence, Entrepreneurship Fellow Thomas Fewer and McDonough Assistant Professor Quentin Dupont S.J. explore the moral responsibility of businesses towards society. Their paper challenges the moral underpinnings of existing theories like shareholder and stakeholder theory, by suggesting that these theories bring positivist notions of the purpose of the firm in society, and thus limit the firm’s moral responsibility to society. Drawing from the philosophical doctrines of the common good, including Aristotelian virtue ethics, Kantian ethics of duty, and utilitarianism, they conceptualize an inclusive moral view of the purpose of the firm. In doing so, they explain how the dimensions underlying each of these perspectives of the common good could serve as a rubric for managerial decision-making and test the common good as applied to a firm’s governance, actions, and outcomes.