Corporate hypergoals, sustainable peace, and the adapted firm.

Author:Dunfee, Thomas W.


Hypergoals are a set of specifiable goals applicable to all publicly-owned, for-profit corporations independent of their purpose, type, business, or legal governance. The identification of hypergoals should be limited to those factors for which a plausible empirical case can be made concerning their role as essential foundations for efficient business interaction. In the context of hypergoals, corporations have a role to play in working toward global, sustainable peace. In working toward the hypergoal of sustainable peace, corporations must attend to two tiers: an immediate, short-term orientation to foster solidarity with local populations in which the corporation works and a longer-term orientation to abide by the specific norms that have been linked to sustainable peace. A framework of corporate decision strategies for dealing with issues such as the violence associated with the distribution of conflict diamonds is presented. Traditional strategies include the Corporate Imperalist, the Corporate Chameleon, the Corporate Nationalist, and the Corporate Opportunist. The model of the Adapted Firm, which would pursue certain identified hypergoals, would better face the challenges posed by conflict diamonds than would other models.

TABLE OF CONTENTS I. INTRODUCTION II. HYPERGOALS AND CORPORATE GOVERNANCE A. The Case of Hypergoals 1. The Rational, Instrumental Argument 2. The Moral Argument: Deontological Positions a. The Social Contract Argument b. Ecumenical and Stakeholder Arguments 3. The Moral Argument: Naturalist/ Aspirational Considerations 4. The Normative Claims: Objections 5. Normative Considerations: Conclusion & Consistency With Legal and Political Constraints B. The Characteristics of Hypergoals III. CANDIDATES FOR HYPERGOALS A. The Transparency B. Contributing to Sustainable Peace 1. Defining Sustainable Peace 2. Corporate Dimensions of Sustainable Peace IV. STRATEGIES FOR COPING WITH CULTURAL CONFLICTS A. A Descriptive Typology of Corporate Strategy B. Demonstrating the Decision Frameworks: The Case of Conflict Diamonds C. The Adapted Firm: The Difference the Hypergoal of Peace Makes V. CONCLUSION I. INTRODUCTION

The ultimate survival of humanity depends on controlling a strong propensity toward the use of violence to resolve conflicts. Similarly, an environment conducive for business transactions requires certainty, minimized violence and maximized human choice. This Article explores the role of corporations in contributing to sustainable peace. It begins by analyzing the potential for identifying "hypergoals" applicable to all publicly-owned, for-profit corporations, independent of their purpose, type, business, or legal governance. Second, candidate hypergoals of transparency and contributing to sustainable peace are identified and discussed. Third, the specific role of business corporations in contributing to sustainable peace is explored and a decision framework is presented that helps to identify strategies corporations may follow in resolving conflicts and minimizing violence. The application of the framework is demonstrated through an analysis of the current controversy surrounding the marketing and distribution of conflict diamonds. Finally, the Article presents the aspirational Adapted Firm as a model of how business firms may best contribute to the hypergoal of sustainable peace.

The central point of this Article is that in identifying sustainable peace as a teleological end for corporate practice, a series of empirically grounded obligations becomes relevant. Given the scope of this Article, it will be beneficial to bear in mind the characteristics of the Adapted Firm, our model for how corporations can best contribute to peace. In many important respects, the Adapted Firm is simply a firm practicing good citizenship as advocated by others in the field of business ethics. However, by linking such behavior to a quest for peace, the motivations for being ethical become clearer. The Adapted Firm survives because it is attentive to the immediate, local emotions and sentiments of the stakeholders affected by corporate action. The Adapted Firm also contributes to a longer-term survival by insisting on certain practices correlated to peace, to wit: providing economic development, being open to external evaluation of actions (including transparency and support for the rule of law), and proactively practicing good citizenship--particularly with respect to strengthening the voice of corporate stakeholders. The Adapted Firm thus consciously commits itself to two levels of decision-making analysis: (1) a commitment to a hypergoal of sustainable peace and the practices associated with sustainable peace, and (2) a commitment to attending to the immediate sentiments of local constituents, including those of shareholders.


    Is it possible to identify a set of specifiable goals applicable to all publicly owned, for-profit corporations independent of their purpose, type, business, or legal governance? We coin the term, "hypergoals," to reflect the extensive authority and reach of such principles. If corporate hypergoals can be identified, the implications are far-reaching. Given emerging evidence of practices that appear to correlate to peace, the acceptance of hypergoals would imply that all corporations share a core set of fundamental obligations. In this Section we examine the possibility of identifying plausible hypergoals.

    The extraordinary diversity of types and forms of corporations surely seems to constrain the search for hypergoals. National approaches to corporate governance vary widely and allow a veritable garden of corporate forms to bloom. In spite of recent tendencies toward greater commonality, the unique attributes of German, Japanese, and U.S. corporations demonstrate the considerable range of extant variations. (1) These national differences have a major impact on the goals of the corporations formed under their regimes. On the face of it, the diversity of forms of corporate law seems to counter any claim that a set of hypergoals standing independently of a legal regime can be identified. Yet this diversity has not prevented scholars from attempting to articulate universal norms applicable to all corporations; in this study nor do we shy away from proposing universal goals underlying those norms.

    Research on universality in the field of business ethics has focused on the question of identifying moral responsibilities obligating all corporations. This topic has attracted considerable interest resulting in commentators developing concepts of "moral minimums," (2) "hypernorms," (3) and "guidelines" (4) that establish moral obligations that are considered binding for global corporations.

    In general, those searching for universal moral obligations ground their principles in established moral and ethical theory. Thomas Donaldson bases his moral minimums in social contract theory (5) while Richard DeGeorge employs a pluralistic, ecumenical approach reflecting multiple ethical theories. (6) In their search for moral universals, commentators have often found it necessary to limit their analysis to only certain types of corporations and contexts. Thus, DeGeorge makes it clear that his Guidelines apply only to U.S. and European corporations doing business in less-developed countries. (7) Donaldson limits his analysis to global or multinational corporations. (8) The fact that these thoughtful commentators find it necessary to limit their analysis to certain types of corporations implies that it is impossible to develop more-generalized standards that would, for example, also apply with equal force to corporations from less-developed or communist countries.

    The pragmatic limitations recognized by Donaldson and DeGeorge are not based on facts or assumptions that exclude the possibility of identifying hypergoals. Instead, they are explicitly offering guidance to a designated set of decisionmakers. Their primary analysis appears extendable to all types of corporations, and we see no reason to severely constrain the search for hypergoals. As a consequence, we impose only a minor limit on our analysis. We focus solely on profit-making corporations with public ownership. Non-profit organizations bring in too many variables for a focused analysis because their missions may relate to non-business activities carried on in furtherance of non-economic goals. (9) The use of the corporate form in such circumstances is a legal formality designed to provide the promoters with limited liability or tax benefits. Similarly, we exclude privately-owned firms. Although all corporations have certain obligations under typical regimes of corporate governance and are subject to public criminal and regulatory laws, privately owned firms are unique in the aspect of our core focus--the goals of the organization. Privately-held firms are operated in furtherance of the goals of the owner(s), which may involve unique personal commitments. Thus, private firms are in direct contrast to publicly-held firms that are understood to have certain generic goals pertaining to the assumed interests of their shareholders and the needs of the state, (10) Finally, we exclude government or state-owned corporations. (11) State-owned corporations must be seen as instruments whose goals correlate with states' public and foreign policy objectives. (12) These exclusions are not meant to suggest that hypergoals do not apply to these organizations; instead, we simply wish to address our attention to the ways in which hypergoals are applicable to for-profit corporations.

    1. The Case for Hypergoals

      This Article first explores the case for the identification of hypergoals by engaging in a pragmatic normative analysis. That is, it first considers whether there are rational and moral arguments supporting the existence or identification of manifest, universal hypergoals. This Article then...

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