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Corporations and the Ethics of Social Responsibility: An Emerging Regime of Expansion and Compliance

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Corporate ethics has undergone significant change in response to environmental issues, and is beginning to evolve further in response to emerging notions of social responsibility, defined in terms of human rights issues. Three dimensions of ethical behaviour – national, international and theoretical – are defined and illustrated through three case studies. The increasingly complex interaction between two of the dimensions, national and international in a global context, poses a significant challenge to corporations attempting to develop and extend best practices. Essentially, that challenge is not only one of corporate compliance, either voluntary or enforced by a system of regulatory and legal measures, but also a question of responsibility for damage or abuse. Three cases are presented which illustrate the complexity of the interactions. The Simon Jones case emphasises the dangers of casual work in multinational labour transactions, and the shortcomings of national remedies even in an advanced economy such as the UK. The second case, Tommy Hilfiger et al., raises a complex set of questions regarding national and international responsibility for compensation in developing economies. The third case, the Royal/Dutch Shell Group, serves as a model of voluntary corporate reform designed to bridge the gap between principles and practice both nationally and internationally.

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: Business School, University of Greenwich

Publication date: 2000-04-01

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