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Abstract

As corporations have become powerful and ubiquitous there has been a growing interest in what ethical and social responsibility they have towards the community. Such responsibility is not limited to philanthropic donations but broadly refers to the interests of stakeholders, all of whom contribute to and are affected by the success or failure of a business. Company stakeholders include shareholders, employees, creditors, customers and, depending on the industry and its impact upon its surrounding social and natural environment, the government and the greater community. This paper will argue that there are strong commercial and moral imperatives which indicate that a corporation should as ‘part of the business of business’ act in an ethical and socially responsible way. Examples of corporate misconduct will illustrate that there are instances where a company’s social responsibilities should take precedence over the goal of profit maximization. It will be posited however, that in most circumstances these goals are complementary rather than antithetical to each other. Finally, a number of reforms will be considered and suggestions made about their utility to Australian businesses.

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