Advertisement

Why Business Firms Have Moral Obligations to Mitigate Climate Change

  • Anne SchwenkenbecherEmail author
Chapter
Part of the CSR, Sustainability, Ethics & Governance book series (CSEG)

Abstract

Without doubt, the global challenges we are currently facing—above all world poverty and climate change —require collective solutions: states, national and international organizations, firms and business corporations as well as individuals must work together in order to remedy these problems. In this chapter, I discuss climate change mitigation as a collective action problem from the perspective of moral philosophy. In particular, I address and refute three arguments suggesting that business firms and corporations have no moral duty to reduce greenhouse gas emissions : (i) that business corporations are not appropriate addressees of moral demands because they are not moral agents , and (ii) that to the extent that they are moral agents their primary moral obligation is to their owners or shareholders, and (iii) the appeal to the difference principle: that individual business corporations cannot really make a significant difference to successful climate change mitigation.

References

  1. Anomaly J (2013) Collective action and individual choice: rethinking how we regulate narcotics and antibiotics. J Med Ethics 39(4):752–756CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Bowie N (2014) Morality, money, and motor cars. In: Hoffman WM, Frederick RE, Schwartz MS (eds) Business ethics: readings and cases in corporate morality. Wiley-Blackwell, Chichester, pp 514–520Google Scholar
  3. Dempsey J (2013) Corporations and non-agential moral responsibility. J Appl Philos 30(4):334–350CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Dietz T, Gardner GT, Gilligan J, Stern PC, Vandenbergh MP (2009) Household actions can provide a behavioral wedge to rapidly reduce US carbon emissions. Proc Nat Sci 106(44):18452–18456CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Doan MD (2016) Responsibility for collective inaction and the knowledge condition. Soc Epistemol 30(5–6):532–554CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Eberlein B, Matten D (2009) Business responses to climate change regulation in Canada and Germany: lessons for MNCs from emerging economies. J Bus Ethics 86(2):241–255CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Erskine T (2001) Assigning responsibilities to institutional moral agents: the case of states and quasi-states. Ethics Int Aff 15(2):67–85CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Frankena WK (1973) Ethics. Prentice-Hall, Englewood CliffsGoogle Scholar
  9. Frederick RE (2014) Ethics in business: two skeptical challenges. In: Hoffman WM, Frederick RE, Schwartz MS (eds) Business ethics: readings and cases in corporate morality. Wiley-Blackwell, Chichester, pp 192–202Google Scholar
  10. Freeman RE (2014) Stakeholder theory of the modern corporation. In: Hoffman WM, Frederick RE, Schwartz MS (eds) Business ethics: readings and cases in corporate morality. Wiley-Blackwell, Chichester, pp 184–191Google Scholar
  11. French PA (1984) Collective and corporate responsibility. Columbia University Press, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  12. Friedman M (1970) The social responsibility of business is to increase its profits. NY TimesGoogle Scholar
  13. Harbin A (2014) The disorientations of acting against injustice. J Soc Philos 45(2):162–181CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Ihlen Ø (2009) Business and climate change: the climate response of the world’s 30 largest corporations. Environ Commun 3(2):244–262CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Jacobsen E, Dulsrud A (2007) Will consumers save the world? The framing of political consumerism. J Agric Environ Ethics 20(5):469–482CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Lawford-Smith H (2015) Unethical consumption & obligations to signal. Ethics Int Aff 29(3):315–330CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Lichtenberg J (2010) Negative duties, positive duties, and the “new harms”. Ethics 120(3):557–578CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. List C, Pettit P (2006) Group agency and supervenience. South J Philos 44(S1):85–105CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. List C, Pettit P (2011) Group agency: the possibility, design, and status of corporate agents. Oxford University Press, OxfordCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Narveson J (2003) The “invisible hand”. J Bus Ethics 46(3):201–212CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Okereke C (2007) An exploration of motivations, drivers and barriers to carbon management: the UK FTSE 100. Eur Manag J 25(6):475–486CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Parfit D (1984) Five mistakes in moral mathematics. Reasons and persons, vol 1. Clarendon Press, Oxford, pp 55–83Google Scholar
  23. Pinkert F (2014) What we together can (be required to) do. Midwest Stud Philos 38(1):187–202CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Schwenkenbecher A (2014) Is there an obligation to reduce one’s individual carbon footprint? Crit Rev Int Soc Polit Philos 17(2):168–188CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Shue H (2010) Deadly delays, saving opportunities: creating a more dangerous world? In: Gardiner SM, Caney S, Jamieson D, Shue H (eds) Climate ethics: essential readings. Oxford University Press, Oxford, pp 146–162Google Scholar
  26. Smith A (1970 [1776]) The wealth of nations. Books I-III. With an introduction by Andrew Skinner. Penguin, HarmondsworthGoogle Scholar
  27. Solomon R (1991) Business ethics. In: Singer P (ed) A companion to ethics. Blackwell, Cambridge, pp 354–365Google Scholar
  28. Strand A (2013) Group agency, responsibility, and control. Philos Soc Sci 43(2):201–224CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Szigeti A (2014) Collective responsibility and group-control. In: Zahle J, Collin F (eds) Rethinking the individualism-holism debate. Springer, Cham, pp 97–116Google Scholar
  30. Tomalty J (2014) The force of the claimability objection to the human right to subsistence. Can J Philos 44(1):1–17CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. UNEP (2015) Sixth emissions gap report. UNEP, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  32. van den Hove S, Le Menestrel M, de Bettignies H-C (2002) The oil industry and climate change: strategies and ethical dilemmas. Clim Policy 2(1):3–18CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Weinhofer G, Hoffmann VH (2010) Mitigating climate change – how do corporate strategies differ? Bus Strateg Environ 19(2):77–89Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Arts, Murdoch UniversityPerthAustralia

Personalised recommendations