by Thomas Kwan.
The concept of corporate soul is not new as can be recalled in the following few quotes:
Sir Edward Cook’s famed words about corporations lacking a soul were common parlance in the 1800s, joining the sayings of Bacon (“Knowledge is power.”), Baccaria (“The greatest happiness of the great number…”), and Hobbes (“Words are wise men’s counters, but the money of fools.”). Familiar Quotations, New York Times, August 28, 1881, (4).
In 1864, a rider of the Harlem River Line wrote to the New York Times saying, ‘I know that corporations have no souls – especially railroad corporations. But they have hides, and it is hoped that they are not yet so thick, that the shafts of outraged public justice and decency may not penetrate them.’ Letter to the Editor, Complains to the management of Harlem Railroad, New York Times, January 31, 1864, (5).
In 1900, Professor Franklin Russell of New York University School of Law predicted that the public’s reaction to corporate illegalities and unethical acts would likely prompt change. Corporations, he reasoned, ‘will some day have a soul. It cannot be that we will have long to wait before an enlightened public opinion will demand that every corporation act be judged by the same standard of lofty morality by which we measure the conduct of the individual man.’ Women Graduate in Law, New York Times, March 30, 100, (2).
The consumer public can never be fooled forever and the truth will always come to the surface in a matter of time and this can be reflected with; “We at Philip Morris are learning the painful lesson that if you turn your back on society, society will turn its back on you. Opinion research consistently shows that people expect companies not simply to obey the law, but to act in ways that are consistent with a society’s sense of what is right.” Greenberg, July 22, 2002.
“The prime purpose of corporations has been to make profits, and perhaps for this reason corporations have not carefully examined their values. The emphasis of corporations on profits creates an environment in which social irresponsibility and unethical practices by management can flourish. In turn, this emphasis may set the stage for law violations, inasmuch as corporate practices often tend to conflict with the values imposed by law.” (Quinney 1964).
Here I would like to bring into focus the philosophy of one company that has inspired me and could also help to inspire those who are thinking of going into business or at a point of reframing the vision and mission of existing businesses.
The company in view is the humble beginnings of Ben and Jerry’s Ice cream founded in 1978 which is now a giant in its industry. This company is based on social responsibility in the sense that business has a responsibility to give back to society. This humble company started its business in the State of Vermont and shared profit by community of Vermont. Its business is values met products and the use of products that are kind to our environment as part of its integrated social responsibility. The inspiring history of this company can be found on the internet.
Over time, top management may change and reset the tone and direction of organizations which are spelled out in print or spoken rules that shape the morality of the corporate culture.
“Corporate leadership affects not only the culture of the organizations but also the general culture of the country as they have contact with political leadership, law makers, and other powerful leaders within the country and abroad. Corporate employees in turn spread their leadership’s culture as they spend long hours at work, absorbing the corporate culture and the assumptions of how people behave and should behave – that is, the society’s culture. Before changing the culture of corporations, leadership must change its own culture.” Tamar. 2006.
To learn how to be ahead of the competition by developing a business with a soul,contact Thomas Kwan.