Topics

As stated in the note about the Network’s history and areas of activity, we fully acknowledge that all topics grouped therein – corporate responsibility, business and human rights, corporate and white-collar crime – are deeply interconnected. Furthermore, they all lead to equally interesting and timely discussions such as those concerning the spread and the power of regulations, state-corporate complicity, corporate governance (i.e. executive v non-executive boards and their respective responsibilities), and sentencing levels. All of these lend themselves well to moral investigation and analysis from a social ethics point of view. Therefore, we start off our series of research topics with Corporate Responsibility and Society, which covers a wide range of considerations, from the more theoretical ones like business ethics theory, to practical aspects to do with corporate governance and managers’ dilemmas.

We can further inquire into more modern guises of corporate wrongdoing, such as a company’s aiding and abetting of human rights violations in countries where the company or its subsidiary may be doing business. For example, in the Khulumani case, automobile manufacturers and computer companies were alleged to have supplied, respectively, all the various terrain vehicles and specialised computer programmes that assisted the apartheid government of South Africa to commit human rights violations against blacks. Similarly, in Argentina, banks are alleged to have supplied funds that financed the military dictatorship’s alleged murder of political dissidents. Further debates and updates on this can be found on our Business & Human Rights page.

As corporate citizens (i.e. legal persons with potentially huge power over the economy, individuals, and the environment), companies have a legal duty to exercise due diligence to prevent, both at organisational and individual levels, crimes from occurring in the course of their business activities. Due diligence, for example, may require that companies put in place systems that will detect and prevent ill-advised polices that may lead to financial harm, serious injury or death. When they fail to do so, they should be subject to criminal liability, arguably regardless of whether any harm actually ensues. However, this does not always happen in practice. Sometimes enacted legislation on corporate criminal liability is not enforced; in other instances, national legislatures decide not to enact laws on corporate criminality at all. We aim to look at all actual cases and debate their impact on corporate crime in general. Please check our Corporate Crime page for updates and commentaries on this.

Corporate wrongdoing is not always the fault of an organisation. Instead, it may be due to individual offences – in which case we talk about individual liability and white-collar crime. One of the interesting questions to be asked in relation to this is, for example, whether a company can insure itself against H&S fines. Is there a difference between a company insuring itself and a private individual doing so, or are both simply a matter of contract between the insured and the insurance company? At a larger scale, the issue amounts to whether or not company directors can be held liable for their company’s criminal behaviour. Please check our White-Collar Crime page for a history of lobbying for directors’ duties in the UK, as well as other updates and commentaries on this.

For a freer, less organised and more personal set of reflections, and to join the accompanying dialogue opportunities, please go to our leader’s Blog.

The Network leader, Dr Ana-Maria Pascal, holds a PhD in Philosophy, where theoretical and normative frameworks usually merge together. Her role in this project indicates the importance which we attach to the history of ideas, socio-cultural backgrounds and moral reflection in the analysis of corporate criminal liability.

We hope you will find this website both interesting and stimulating. Please do not hesitate to send us your comments and updates via our email.