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Corporate “Moral Responsibilities” – Myth or Reality?

In recent years, it became a “statement of good fashion”, on the part of many economists and political observers, to suggest that Western companies, operating in Third World countries, should adjust their business strategy to the illusive notion of “moral responsibleness”, the actual subtleties of which cannot be defined even by people with truly wild imagination. While coming up with such suggestions, these self-proclaimed “experts” rarely bother to substantiate their point of view with the mean of logic. Thomas Friedman’s book “The World is Flat”, exemplifies the earlier statement better then anything else. In it, while praising the process of Globalization as something utterly advantageous to a mankind, author often comes up with ridiculous suggestions that, given the reality of “world becoming flat” (Globalization), it is not the prospect of generating a commercial profit, which is going to serve as main operational stimulus for transnational corporations in the future, but the fact that CEOs of these companies would miraculously become preoccupied with “benefiting humanity”, as their foremost concern: “One new area that is going to need sorting out is the relationship between global corporations and their own moral consciences. Some may laugh at the notion that a global corporation even has a moral conscience, or should ever be expected to develop one. But some do and others are going to have to develop one… Social and environmental activists and progressive companies can now collaborate in ways that can make both the companies more profitable and the flat earth more livable” (Friedman 297). If author happened to conduct some empirical research, on the subject of what kind of transnational corporations are considered the most competitive, before starting to write his book, he would know that these corporations are closely associated with arms trade. This is because the arms trade remains the most lucrative and absolutely legal business on Earth. It is needless to say, of course, that selling weapons can hardly be thought of as highly moral pursuit. This, however, does not prevent Friedman’s twisted sense of logic from bringing him to conclusion that, once Earth becomes completely “flat”, the cosmopolitic money-bags, who own transnational corporations, would simply stop being concerned with exploiting nation-states’ human and natural resources and with indulging in variety of financial speculations. Instead, they would begin hugging trees and “celebrate diversity”.

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While trying to add some soundness to his naïve ideas, Friedman comes up with the example of McDonald’s corporation, which from 2002 onwards, promotes its image as “environmentally friendly company”: “In 2002, McDonald’s and Conservation International forged a partnership to use the McDonald’s global supply chain to produce not just value but also different values about the environment… Conservation International is already seeing improvements in conservation of water, energy, and waste, as well as steps to encourage better management of fisheries, among McDonald’s suppliers” (Friedman 298). However, while never getting tired of allegorically referring to Earth as “flat”, author omits mentioning the fact that Earth is already three times overpopulated. This is because, after the end of colonial era, the number of people in Third World countries began to increase in geometrical progression. For example, the population of Somalia has tripled, within a matter of last twenty years, while being subjected to never-ending civil wars and famine. All these people are good at is pirating and making babies. This is why it is preposterous to refer to Third World countries as “developing”, as promoters of neo-Liberal agenda do, since these countries (specifically in Africa) are not only not developing, but rapidly regressing back into primeval savagery. Therefore, the spokesmen for large international corporations that operate there could not possibly be serious, while suggesting that they are being dedicated to benefiting locals in one way or another – such rhetoric is nothing but a publicity stunt, on their part. It is highly doubtful whether citizens of such countries as Uganda of Gongo are even capable of understanding of what the concept of “environmental friendliness” stand for, given the fact that a good half of them live in the state of unimaginable poverty, while considering trees’ bark and cockroaches as delicacy.

If we assume that the notion of “corporate responsibleness” does define the operational mode of international corporations in countries of Third World, then we would come to paradoxical conclusion that these companies must do their best to prevent new demographical explosions in these countries. We can only theorize as to how this can be accomplished, but given the fact that the amount of fat in McDonald’s hamburgers is only slightly lesser then the amount of fat in the lump of grease, it would not be an exaggeration, on our part, to suggest that the very presence of McDonald’s restaurants in Third World countries should contribute to relieving these countries of their demographical burden.

The very fact that, while discussing purely economical and technological issues, Friedman talks about “moral obligation” and “moral conciseness”, greatly reduces the objective value of his book, simply because these notions can be interpreted at will: “The bottom line is that a growing number of companies have come to believe that moral values, broadly and liberally defined, can help drive shareholder values” (Friedman, p. 302). It might very well be the case, but since it were exactly the disputes over different interpretations of “moral values”, which served as an excuse for people to fight each other, throughout the history of Western civilization, we have doubts as to the fact that “highly moral” CEOs of transnational corporations might actually be able to benefit from embracing “spirituality”, unless they do it for purely pragmatic reasons. Apparently, author has a hard time, while drawing a line between the objective notions of economics and his personal set of spiritual beliefs. We do not deny Friedman his right to freely express his opinions on the subject of Globalization; however; it is quite inappropriate on his part, to utilize a non-existent terminology, throughout “The World is Flat”, and to expect readers to seriously consider his ideas: “Compassionate flatists believe that this is no time to be sitting on one’s hands, thinking exclusively in traditional left-right, consumer-versus-company terms” (Friedman, p. 302). It is quite unclear as to whom Friedman refers to as “flatists”, while implying that their existence is self-evident. What is clear though, is that Friedman’s ideas are much more capable of causing harm to people in “developing” countries, when taken seriously, then benefiting them in any real way. As history shows, it is namely people preoccupied with “morality”, which were often being proven as evildoers. For example, Catholic officials think that it is absolutely “immoral” to promote the usage of contraceptives, among people in Third World countries, while appealing to citizens of Western countries to donate money to countless Catholic charities, so that “hungry children of Africa” would not die from starvation. As saying goes – road to hell is made out of good intentions. It is doubtful whether Friedman had ever heard this saying; otherwise, his book would not be filled with nonsensical notions and assumptions.


Chuckman, John “America’s Phoniest Liberal? Thomas Friedman’s Fabrications”. 2002. Counter Punch. 2009. Web.

Friedman, Thomas “The World Is Flat: A Brief History of the Twenty-First Century”. NY: Farrar, Straus and Giroux; 2005.

Marshall, Stephen “Wolves in Sheep’s Clothing: The New Liberal Menace in America”. NY: The Disinformation Company, 2007.

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Solomon, Norman “Thomas Friedman, Liberal Sadist?”. 2005. Fair Magazine. 2009. Web.

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StudyCorgi. "Corporate “Moral Responsibilities” – Myth or Reality?" October 28, 2021.


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