• Are corporations evil?

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    Mar Andriel S. Umali

    Mar Andriel S. Umali

    I wasn’t surprised when “Mr. Robot,” one of my favorite American TV shows, recently won the Golden Globe Award for Best Television Series Drama. It features the story of a vigilante computer hacker, Elliot Alderson, who is trying to bring down a large multinational conglomerate, E Corp. Throughout the show, E Corp is referred to as “Evil Corp” because the story is told from Elliot’s perspective.

    There are many reasons why he referred to this corporation as “evil.” The company owns around 70 percent of the global consumer credit industry. In the ‘90s, the corporation was involved in a gas leak scandal which led to the deaths of more than 20 employees, including Elliot’s father. Evil Corp survived this scandal.

    Sam Esmail, the show’s creator, admitted in an interview that the logo of Evil Corp in the show was actually derived from a real-life company, Enron. In the early 2000s, the company was subject to a huge corporate scandal and accounting fraud which led to bankruptcy. This also led to the loss of thousands of jobs and billions of dollars in investments.

    While “Mr. Robot” is fiction, I couldn’t help but ask this question: Are corporations evil? It has been widely taught in business schools and textbooks that the goal of firms is to “maximize shareholder value.” It is in the nature of businesses to focus their attention on making profits. Both reality and fiction show that some would go to extremes in order to meet this goal, sometimes through deception and malpractices. This is the reason why some businesses are depicted as “evil.”

    Are corporations really evil or have they reformed? Over the past years, there has been a paradigm shift on how businesses operate. In fact, leaders around the world adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development during the United Nations Sustainable Development Summit in September 2015. The goal is to encourage collective effort among different parties to “eradicate poverty and to allow humans, of today and the future, to live with dignity in a peaceful and just world that effectively utilizes natural resources.” Realizing their big role in achieving this goal, many businesses are now committed not just to making profits, but also to their responsibilities to the environment and society.

    I recently had the opportunity to co-write a research paper with DLSU professor Dr. Ginny Santiago about corporate sustainability and sustainability reporting in the Philippines.
    Based on our research, which was funded by the CHED—Philippine Higher Education Research Network (PHERNet), the number of Philippine firms practicing corporate sustainability and sustainability reporting has been increasing since 2004. As of 2015, almost 30 percent of publicly listed firms are into corporate sustainability. More importantly, we found out that the sustainability practices of firms (i.e., those with sustainability reporting) have a positive significant effect on their profitability. Our study provides some evidence that giving back to society, addressing environmental problems, and contributing to sustainable development do not hinder the financial growth of firms. In fact, by reporting their corporate sustainability practices, companies create a positive signal to investors.

    Are corporations evil? Each one will have his or her opinion on this subject. However, the more important thing to consider is how we can individually contribute to making this world a better place. I hope that more and more corporations will strive to become a different kind of E Corp.

    “Effective Corp” or “Environment-friendly Corp.” To end, let me quote an advertisement in the show, “Together we can change the world, with E Corp”.

    Mr. Umali earned his Master of Science in Financial Engineering (MSFE) degree from the Ramon V. del Rosario College of Business of De La Salle University. He is currently teaching under the Financial Management Department. He welcomes comments at mar.umali@dlsu.edu.ph. The views expressed above are the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official position of DLSU, its faculty, and its administrators.

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    1 Comment

    1. Having a thought of Corporations are evils is like also having a thought humans are evils. Apparently, the answer is yes as we see them today in general. However, we knew from the beginning the humans are God creation, who is morally good and holy, since, while even humans were still in the wombs of their mothers, God already planted goodness in their hearts. Now let us get back to corporation, which is a juridical entity with personalities and powers operated by its officials. That means corporations a person created by the operation of the law, must not be an evil, because the law that creates the corporation must necessarily proceed from or derived from the law of God, or Natural law from where Moral laws derived, therefore, it follows that creation of this law must also morally sreated and not evil ones, so with share of some divine character as maybe bestowed by God to every humans. But yet we are not talking of the performance and opration of subject corporation. Before its operation, we could trace that every corporations were created by law morally. The birth of the corporations, like the birth of humans were brought to light holy, except that as a person, corporation is without souls like humans have but remain unable to get to heaven, except after duly asked it from the Church and accordingly baptized by the power of Christ through His Church, then and only then that human person not anymore ,mere human person but become supernatural person with gift of salvation to heaven. Therefore, in short, to answer the question whether or not corporations are evils? Others may answer differently, but mine as a Certified Public Accountant, a former forensic auditor and a lay Catholic pastoral worker, and well aware of business operation, operated morally or not, my answer is, that it depends on the state of moral qualities of persons operating the corporation, whether they have reached the state of being not a mere humans or they have been cloth with Christ, so they are now supernatural persons. One can only be a supernatural person if one can win the battle of goodness, that one can truly be a whole person, body and soul, heart and conscience, mind and will.