Companies are not people... despite prevailing law. Why do we pretend they will behave ethically?

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I agree...if we want companies to behave ethically, we should create laws or corporate structures requiring them to do so instead of having vague expectations that are not consistent with our economic practices/foundation. And we should understand the impact it will have on the consumer (higher prices, less on-demand availability, etc.). As it is, a company’s main obligation is to generate returns for shareholders, ethics aside. We need to stop pretending otherwise.

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The examples Director 2 cites about the environment messes left behind by companies...it's appalling. I agree. We need to evolve, quickly, to a world where companies are responsible for the true environment impact of their business...and stopped from projects that lead to this kind of harm right up front, rather than just paying for the cleanup. Whether by law, pressure from employees or regulators or consumers, we can't continue to operate the old way.

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On the contrary people make up a company and people are not ethical

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I think some people are ethical...but we're all imperfect. The difference is that ethical people sincerely aspire to live their life (and work) in accordance with higher ethical principles, and when they fail, they have the self awareness to admit they blew it, and they then learn and recommit to do better.

I don’t believe ethics can be achieved as a stand-alone policy or siloed area. To be effective, ethics has to be woven into the corporate culture and driven top down as a message of “these are our values, this is who we are, and this is how we go about our business.” Ethics need to be demonstrated over time through actions to truly adopted. A policy statement is meaningless without a commitment by executive management and evidence of ethical decision making. If the expectation of ethical behavior becomes inculcated into the corporate culture “top down, bottom up” then you will attract and retain better people (my opinion).

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Couldn't agree more.

I agree OP. A company can't make any decisions, it is the people within the company that make or allow unethical decisions.

I think holding people within the company more accountable before the law might have better results. I would love to hear what other people think about this idea.

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I think the law is part of the answer. I think the better answer is for employees to speak up when they see ethical problems (even walk out or leave), and customers to speak up with their buying decisions, and hold companies accountable...we're already seeing this happen today.

Like a B Corp.
Patagonia for example.

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Companies absolutely have no ethics! Their only motive is to get money and during this process they pretend that they care for their people and have created a culture of caring. No way! Haven’t seen that in my 20 years of exp with corporate world

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Shareholders may rule the roost with publicly traded companies but I have had clients in the past, specifically ones privately owned or family owned that have behaved ethically.

I wish the bottom of an income statement was “good deeds accomplished”

I think we're going to see an evolution where companies report on how all their stakeholders are doing, not just pure financial metrics. And we're going to see leaders compensated for hitting non-financial metrics around the multi-stakeholder principles.

It’s because companies are treated as legal persons by the law in some respects, but not held accountable like real humans. Criminal law doesn’t apply the same way because of corporate decision making structures. Liability is dispersed and it’s much harder to pin one individual down for wrongdoing.

When it’s so easy to hide wrongdoing and never see legal penalty, what’s the point of ethics?

Ethics is such a depressing conversation as in the end no one ever seems to do right based on the perspective of the observer and those impacted. Based on the teleological frameworks, most corporations act with Ethical Egoism, or basically acting in their own self interest so long as the net result is positive for themselves and their shareholders. As others have already noted that works for them and their perspective and aligns to Milton Friedman’s economic view of how companies should act. That said, consumers are expecting a more Utilitarianism approach and that companies should act for the greater good of the community than themselves. We’ve started to see more of that, especially with climate change, supply sourcing, and global labor practices.

I think that companies are very human -- it's a group of people, led by people (CEOs, Boards, top leaders), and even their computers and equipment are built by people and programmed by people. A company's purpose, it's actions, are all people driven. I think that companies even take on the personality of their top leader -- it starts with the CEO. So if a CEO acts unethically, or at least tolerates/encourages unethical behavior by leadership, it's going to filter down and permeate the company.

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From what I understand, ethics is separate from legal. Legal violations have consequences, ethical violations don’t. What’s the point of ethics if there are no consequences? Sure when it’s convenient to be ethnical, everyone will be. It only matters when it’s not convenient. So should there be ethics set up with consequences like loss of job that applies evenly for everyone in the company including the CEO? Should their be financial consequences set up for smaller violations?

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