A horseshoe is regarded as a lucky, perhaps even romantic, symbol of our industrial heritage. Why is it, then, that much of English literature, from Mandeville's ‘Grumbling Hive’ on, portrays business in a murky light? The paper begins with an analysis of this phenomenon and concludes that it is the institutionalisation and legitimisation of avarice and its consequential effects that gives rise to such a portrayal. A horseshoe has also been used as a convenient means of conceptualising an answer to the questions this conclusion raises: ‘Who should control the corporation and for what ends?’ (Mintzberg 1985) and discussing recent developments in corporate social responsibility. Drawing on research evidence the paper demonstrates how corporations are simultaneously under pressure from society and responding to its concerns. The paper concludes that these current developments can at best ameliorate the situation, and that what is necessary is to rediscover the notion of corporate virtue, instead of putting virtue at the service of vice.