The Columns

W&L’s Reiter to Give Markets & Morals Talk on Corporate Responsibility

— by on January 24th, 2017

“Are for-profit corporations the type of entity that can be morally responsible or does it make sense to hold them morally responsible?”

Sandra Reiter, associate professor of business administration at Washington and Lee University, will give a talk on Feb. 15 as part of W&L’s Roger Mudd Center for Ethics Markets and Morals series.

The talk is at 12 p.m. in the Hillel House Multipurpose Room. Lunch is provided — please RSVP to mudd-center@wlu.edu by Feb. 8.

Reiter will speak on “Can Corporations Be Morally Responsible?” The lecture is open to the W&L community only.

Sandra Reiter

Reiter said about her talk, “Are for-profit corporations the type of entity that can be morally responsible or does it make sense to hold them morally responsible? We often use language that implies that we think that is the case. Many of us, for instance, blame BP for the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico or hold Volkswagen morally responsible for cheating on its automobile emission tests. It may be that we actually do think that BP and Volkswagen, the corporations, are to blame for the actions, or it may be that we are simply using ‘BP’ and ‘Volkswagen’ metaphorically, and what we really mean is that the company executives and employees are morally responsible and blameworthy.

“Some may think the executives are the ones who are really morally responsible because we associate persons with moral responsibility, and we hold only persons morally responsible,” she continued. “Yet, how should we think about the moral responsibility of corporations? Can a collective, independent of its members, be morally responsible? What characteristics must an entity possess in order to be morally responsible? Does a collective like a corporation possess those characteristics necessary to qualify it for moral responsibility?”

Prior to joining academia, Reiter worked in the aerospace industry, as an engineer and as a manager most recently at Honeywell International Corp.

She is the author of “Corporate Profit, Social Welfare and the Logic of Capitalism” (2016), in Business and Society Review; “Moral Loopholes in the Global Economic Environment: Why Well-intentioned Organizations Act in Harmful Ways” (2011), in Ethique et Economique; and “Institutional Restructuring versus Corporate Social Responsibility” (2010), in the Journal of Business, Society and Government.

Reiter’s main area of research is business justice, with a focus on international business. She is interested in the institutional structure of the economic order and questions of fairness, particularly as they relate to business.

For more information about this series, see: https://www.wlu.edu/mudd-center/programs-and-events/2016-2017-markets-and-morals.