Business vs. the Environment Essay

This essay has a total of 1451 words and 6 pages.

Business vs. the Environment

Business vs. the Environment

Business today has so many responsibilities. Aside from making a profit, they are forced
to take on a different responsibility, one that involves the environment. Even though,
they already have many regulations set by the government, they are still being asked to
answer to the call of helping out the rest of society take of nature. This essay will
discuss the pros and cons of corporate responsibility for the environment through the
agent-of-society and agent-of-capital views.


The agent-of-society view holds that corporate managers are prima facie obligated to
consider the interests of everyone who is likely to be affected by what managers decide to
do. With this view in mind, Michael Hoffman states, "Corporate managers should be held
morally responsible for going beyond considerations of profits, law, and market morality
to try to do what they can to help solve our most pressing environmental problems." In his
article, Hoffman argues that business must creatively find ways to become part of the
solution, instead of the problem. Business should try to become more environmentally
friendly and think of ways to help mitigate the many environmental problems we have.
Consumers argue they have no control over or say in whether business provides
environmentally friendly products or not. They argue that it's not up to them "how the
products are made, how the services are provided, or how the legislation is enacted."
Although, some businesses have tried to come up with environmentally friendly products but
they find that consumers are unwilling to pay extra for them. He thinks corporations can
and must develop a conscience, including an environmental conscience. Like the owner of
the paper company, business should think of ways to stop the pollution and harm to the
environment and take action quickly so that they can set an example for other businesses
to follow.

One really good point that Hoffman made was that to ensure the survival of the planet,
society needs the cooperation of all its players to solve its most urgent problems. But
businesses don't view this as something profitable to them so they don't spend the time,
money, or resources to try to solve the problems. They feel as if this is a problem that
the government needs to find appropriate solutions to. Businesses are not ready or capable
to take risks or make sacrifices that will put them out of business. The Environmental
Defense Fund is now trying to encourage businesses into becoming more environmentally
friendly. Their strategy "is to get businesses to help solve environmental problems by
finding profitable or virtually costless ways for them to participate." They want to find
win-win situations so that businesses will want to help.

The agent-of-capital view holds that corporate managers are prima facie obligated to be an
agent to the shareholders and focus on the pursuit of corporate profits within the "rules
of the game" established by law and capitalist market morality. Milton Friedman's main
theory is "the social responsibility of business is to produce goods and services and to
make a profit for its shareholders, while playing within the rules of the market game; to
engage in open and free competition without deception or fraud." Friedman also makes a
very good point. He says that "corporation is an artificial person and in this sense may
have artificial responsibilities, but ‘business' as a whole cannot be said to have
responsibilities." Therefore, business cannot have a social conscience. Even if there are
"social responsibilities," they are the responsibilities of the individuals, not the
business. These corporate executives are also people in their own right who have their own
"social responsibilities," but they are acting within the scope of their employment so
they have to think of the business and the fact that they are spending someone else's
money, namely the stockholders', the employees', and the customers' money.


There are three arguments that I believe are the best when arguing for the
agent-of-society view. First is Hoffman's view that "society needs the ethical vision and
cooperation of all its players to solve its most urgent problems, especially one that
involves the very survival of the planet itself." In order for society to solve its
problems, the people of the society need to come together and support each other in trying
to find solutions to fix the problem. Everyone should bring their knowledge, expertise,
and resources needed to deal with the environmental crisis. Second, Hoffman says the "we
quite often act differently when we think of ourselves as consumers than when we think of
ourselves as citizens." When we think of ourselves as consumers, we act for ourselves,
more often then not; but as citizens, we take on a broader view and do what is best for
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