Business and the Greater Good

Business and the Greater Good

Rethinking Business Ethics in an Age of Crisis

Studies in TransAtlantic Business Ethics series

Edited by Knut J. Ims and Lars J.T. Pedersen

With cutting-edge insights from leading European and North American scholars, this authoritative book addresses the fundamental problems of business in an age of crisis whilst presenting radical, but practical, solutions.

Chapter 4: Business and the greater good as a combination of private and public wealth

Georges Enderle

Subjects: business and management, business ethics and trust, corporate social responsibility, international business


Although the literature on “business and society” is vast, it tends to ignore the fact that the economic system mediates between business and society. All too often the analysis jumps from “business” directly to “society” at large as if business organizations weren’t embedded and shaped by the economic system as part of the overall system of society. This neglect of the economic system has far-reaching consequences. The purpose of the company, commonly taken for granted, is not articulated and aligned with the purpose of the economy. Since business operates in and focuses on the marketplace, the market is often mistaken for the entire economy. The company’s relations to its various stakeholders do not account for systemic issues of the economy. And when corporate relations to “society” are investigated, the targets are simply “people,” “citizenship,” or the “environment” detached from any economic content. Therefore, in addressing the question of “business and the greater good,” proper attention should be paid to the economic system as mediating between business and society. Consequently, in this chapter, we may focus on the “greater good” that is more than business but less than society. First, business (understood as business organizations) has to be placed in the economic system and conceived as one part but not as the whole of it. Second, it is proposed to define the purpose of the economy – and hence of business – as the creation of wealth in a comprehensive sense, understood as “the greater good.

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