Corporate Priorites and Responsibilities

Over the past several years, there have been the beginnings of some serious conversations in America regarding the roles and responsibilities of corporations in society.  In our society, where we sacralize capitalism, the ultimate beneficiary of community good is the financial success of corporations.  We tend to argue that a successful corporation means jobs and that the more a company makes, the more those working for it will make as well.

A quick study of American history demonstrates that our militarization is connected to commerce.  Our first declared war after the revolutionary war, was against the nation of Tunisia, due to unaccessible and dangerous shipping lanes. The Civil War, which remains our deadliest war, was initiated by the Confederacy to protect the economic benefits of slavery.   In the late nineteenth century, historians site at least five military operations that we unilateral actions in foreign nations on behalf of corporations and commerce related concerns.  In terms of the American economy, we place a tremendous amount of our resources in protecting and promoting commerce.

We tend to think of corporations as entities whose only responsibility is to make money for themselves.  We, as a society, refuse to place ethical or moral demands on them.  Yet, they frequently demand that the citizens of this country give them support without responsibilities.  Tax payer bailouts in 2008, Haliburton oil distribution of the Iraq war, and banking collapses show unchecked greed without accountability.

In 2004, Target refused to allow Salvation Army kettles in front of their stores.  They stated that it was a form of solicitation that they could not support.  One could argue that even apart from the religious dimension of the Salvation Army, that their social services are among the most effective supports for the most marginalized in our communities.  Due to immense amounts of pressure, they began to support some of the services of the Salvation Army, but still do not allow the familiar red kettles. 

Recent studies show that corporations are making record profits, while those who work for them are working harder for significantly less.  The question is whether there is an accountability of corporations, not to simply make profit, but to benefit the community at large.  Profits are not being translated into jobs, but into the pockets of a few.  Income disparity is at an all time high.  A permanent working subclass is being developed while corporate officers make obscenely high salaries.  Don't corporations have responsibilities to the community and specifically, its workers?

Recently, I was looking at an event in which a friend of mine is participating.  This event supports Gay rights and promotes awareness of the issues that Gay and Lesbian peoples face.  In the list of sponsors for the event, I noticed that Target was one of the supporters.  If you click on the link, it takes you to the Target retail site where you can buy things.  Regardless if you agree or disagree with the issue, the point is that they were willing to support a cause if they could sell their products or exploit the cause. 

I think its time that we consider holding companies and corporations responsible to its communities, and workers.  As a pastor of a Church that is trying to also be responsible to the community in which we live, I find it incredible that corporations will often not consider supporting religious organizations as we serve the community (food pantries, homeless ministries, school supplementation programming, youth activities, legal services, refugee services, etc) but will donate money to other organizations if they can exploit it.

As you head to work today or shopping today, consider the whether the companies we work for and financially support are being responsible to the community.  Believe it or not, you as a worker and a consumer actually have significant leverage in developing an ethos of responsibility.  If there is a need in the community in which a corporation resides and benefits from, lets bring it to the attention of the decision makers and refuse to allow profit without responsibility.

Let me know what you think,

Pastor M Traylor
Dr. M TraylorComment