For nearly a decade, corporate personhood has been hugely controversial in the United States. Ever since the Supreme Court’s Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission ruling in 2010, upholding the rights of corporations to make political expenditures under the First Amendment, confers the right to free speech on a person or an association of people.
Of late, big companies are showing the sort of social conscience that one might expect of people of great sensibility. Consider the following hallowed list of corporate conscience:
** Walmart, which first banned assault weapon sales, has rejected vaping products
** Walmart, JPMorgan Chase, Starbucks, Amazon and many others have increased their minimum wage to $15
** Amazon has become the first to sign The Climate Pledge to be net-zero carbon across its businesses by 2040. That’s a decade ahead of the Paris Agreement’s goal of 2050
** Stripe, the online payments platform, plans to spend $1 million a year for direct removal of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere
** Bank of America has stopped lending to makers of military-style assault weapons
It does, of course make business sense for big companies to be socially responsible. But once upon a time, it didn’t seem to hit home as much. There was a time when companies ‘did’ CSR because corporate social responsibility was mainly about show. If it did any real good, that was a bonus.
Now, companies have to be socially responsible if they want their customers, the communities to which they sell, and the communities among which they produce, to live, thrive, make and buy.
As in much that has happened with capitalism since the 20th century, American companies are leading the way.