Treating Stakeholders as Ends Rather than Means

4 April 2015
An examination of the Kant approach to business ethics.

This paper examines how corporations deal with their stakeholders. The writer contends that, along with Norman Bowie, there is a moral imperative for corporations to treat stakeholders as ends rather than means. Moreover, the writer states that the best prospect for achieving this movement in stakeholder theory will be found in Immanuel Kant’s moral theory.
Contrary to popular belief, one of the fundamental principles underpinning capitalism is one of respect for persons. It is our disposition to treat other agents as free and rational individuals deserving of particular rights and duties that establishes certain principles and rules concerning how we ought to treat each other in the organization and function of business practices and institutions. The everyday conduct of business is not simply, I contend, a hedonistic pursuit of profit at all cost. In addition to the economic imperatives that certainly do drive corporations, there is also a concomitant moral imperative that governs how we fulfill our economic activities.

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