Logo handbook corporate social responisbility
logo ethics workshop
Pace University Link
Contact tab space
Theories of corporate social responsibility
Pure Marketplace Ethics Libertarian Marketplace
(Shareholder Theory)
Social Marketplace
(Shareholder Theory)
Shared Value Stakeholder Theory - Soft Progressive Corporate Social Responsibility Triple Bottom Line / Sustainability Stakeholder Theory - Hard
Theories of corporate social responsibility distributed across tensions
Social and
Environmental Engagement
Freedom versus Happiness Individualism versus Collectivism Independence versus Belonging Dignity
versus Compassion
Social Marketplace Ethics
  Overview What's good ethically is doing well economically, within the law, and while always maximizing broad social benefits as long as the maximization subtracts nothing from legal obligations and economic success. In other words, you seek to do good in the world, as long as it doesn't ultimately subtract from the bottom line.  


Respect for laws, regulations and commonly accepted codes for operation.

Broad social welfare independent of economic operations.


Gear decisions to the economic rules of the marketplace

Check decisions for compliance with letter (and potentially with the spirit) of applicable laws, regulations and accepted practices.

Recognize and evaluate broad social and environmental initiatives within the parameters of the core business (There is no independent value in social/environmental initiatives).

  Key concepts Libertarian advocates of Marketplace ethics build arguments on the principle of individual freedom and dignity.

Social obligations and initiatives are evaluated in the same terms as all other business decisions: the conditioning obligation is to owners/shareholders.

There is an ethical obligation to consider broad social effects of business decisions, and to make decisions that maximize social welfare when doing so does not negatively affect the bottom line.

The invisible hand: the argument that businesses seeking profit in their field of expertise ultimately do more good for society generally than businesses distracted by philanthropy, corporate social responsibility and similar apparently noble initiatives. Companies may seek to do good in the world by maximizing profit. Being socially responsible is understood as a natural effect of profitability. Finally, businesses are ethically required to document how profit-making serves the general welfare, and how specific forms of profit-making serve the general welfare better than other, equally lucrative paths.

  Hard questions

How, and to what extent does society as a whole benefit when businesses narrowly pursue their own bottom-line welfare?

How should social and environmental initiatives be graded ethically when motivated by economic profit?


Arm and Hammer released Essentials, it’s green-friendly cleaning products line, in 2008. The business decision was hailed by eco-conscious websites including sustainableisgood.com. No one doubts that the products are better for the environment than more traditional competitors, but three years later they were pulled from the market: Arm and Hammed couldn't turn a profit on Essentials, so it disappeared. “We haven’t given up on launching innovative, earth-friendly products, we’ve just taken a step back to think about how and when consumers will be ready,” said chief marketing officer, Bruce Fleming.
Written in ethical terms, he’s saying that social and environmental responsibility exist only on the profit horizon. The consumer leads the company, it's not the company's job to educate or lead the consumer: social and environmental betterment hold value as derived from the stronger value of profit. (A broad review from the NYTimes)

Michael Duke, Walmart CEO: "Sustainability continues to make Walmart a better company by reducing waste, lowering costs, driving innovation, increasing productivity and helping us fulfill our mission of saving people money so they can live better."
That's different than saying: "Sustainability continues to make Walmart a better company because we're saving the planet."

product red
(under some understandings)

  Prime philosophical theory compatibilities Rights theory, Libertarianism, Utilitarianism (under conceptions of economic growth colored by the invisible hand)  
  Human values

Strong respect for autonomy, freedom, rights of the individual

Inherent dignity of the individual (entrepreneurship, "the self-made man/woman")

Respect for others without patronization; refusal to pity others

Acceptance of formalized collective social institutions, frequently as grounded in self-interest (contract notions of social organization)

Recognition of independent social and environmental initiatives; respect for them when they arise within the horizon of economic gain

  Associated notable figures Adam Smith, Friedrich Hayek, Ayn Rand, Milton Friedman, Robert Nozick, The Cato Institute  
  Branding connect Bank of America: Opportunity
  Branding misconnect  
© Ethics Workshop