Corporate Legitimacy

Laszlo Zsolnai ‘Corporate Legitimacy .’ , in Business Ethics and Corporate Sustainability, eds. Antonio Tencati, and Francesco Perrini, Edward Elgar, Cheltenham, UK, Northampton, MA, USA, 2011. (This book may be available at: Edward Elgar)

The paper suggests that the Just War theory provides an excellent methodological device for determining the conditions of legitimacy of companies.  The Just War theory promotes the view that a specific war is just if satisfactory conditions are met. The Just War tradition addresses the morality of the use of force in two parts: when it is right to resort to armed force (the concern of “jus ad bellum”) and what is acceptable in using such force (the concern of “jus in bello”). In more recent years, a third category — “jus post bellum” — has been added, which governs the justice of war termination and peace agreements, as well as the trying of war criminals.

Just War Theory has different sets of criteria. The first establishing the right to go to war (“jud as bellum”), the second establishing the right conduct within war (“jus in bello”), while the third establishing justice about the results of war (“jus post bellum”).  In business ethics we can make analogous distinctions. A specific company can be considered just if the company’s activities are substantively right, procedurally fair, and bring justice to the company ecosystem.

If the company’s activities are substantively right, procedurally fair and bring justice to the company ecosystem then the specific company can get strong legitimacy. This means that the company “raison d’étre”, the company’s operations as well as the company’s end results are morally justifiable.

Corporate Legitimacy