Business Ethics: “The Corporation” Documentary

Topic: Business Ethics
Words: 559 Pages: 2


The Corporation is a 2003 documentary that explores corporations, their influence, and their societal and legal rights that resemble the rights of a fully conscious individual. The movie directors Mark Achbar and Jennifer Abbot point out all the ethical problems that modern-day corporations portray by having business practices that negatively influence entire communities and societies. Moreover, Robert D. Hare, a professor with expertise in psychology and experience with consulting the FBI, compares corporations’ personalities with certain traits that are common among people with psychopathic tendencies (Achbar & Abbott, 2003). While specific critics have raised concerns in regards to some of the commentary from the documentary, the movie examines an interesting aspect that the most influential modern-day companies portray.

Unethical Business Practices

The Corporation criticizes specific business practices that are solely designed to increase profit disregarding unethical behaviors that correlate with these practices. Moreover, the increasing corporate personhood that raises as these companies are viewed as living entities with rights and personalities is harmful. While having rights, corporations appear to lack obligations or ethical considerations. One example brought up in the film is the Cochabamba Water War, the protests that occurred as a response after a company had privatized an entire municipal supply of water in Bolivia (Achbar & Abbott, 2003).

As a result, the rate hiked, and the water supply was often cut off. Such measures are not only damaging to the people experiencing negative outcomes but also consolidate the notion of corporations being entirely unethical in certain aspects. The unethical corporate behavior that has been present from the beginning of the reinforcement of global corporations suggests the worldwide influence they have is dangerous and can cause adverse outcomes.

Corporate Social Responsibility and Limited Liability

Some of the general themes touched upon in the documentary are the notions of social responsibility and limited liability. Companies are mostly self-regulated when it comes to corporate social responsibility, which means they have the freedom to decide how to contribute to particular societal needs and issues. Furthermore, a lack of adequate social responsibility cannot be punished in the world of modern capitalism because each corporation individually decides how to behave in terms of ethics and norms as long as the legislation is obeyed. Moreover, limited liability is closely tied with the notion of corporate personhood. An investor is only liable for the sum of money that was individually invested in the corporation. This is one of the reasons why companies are treated as logical entities, and individual stakeholders cannot be held accountable for the corporation’s unethical behavior and harmful business practices.


The Corporation illustrates how corporations are given personalities and rights and how these aspects do not always correlate with ethics and morals. Corporations have the authority and power to contribute to improving work environments, help consumers receive adequate services for less money, and positively influence society as a whole. However, the main premise is always increasing the profit for the stakeholders.

While these companies’ actions are often valid from a legal perspective, the ethical side of the corporate behavior rarely resembles that of a power that strives for positive outcomes for everyone. The movie illustrates how such organizations are granted the rights of human beings. However, failure to experience guilt and the presence of psychopathic tendencies make it dangerous for corporations to have such an overpowering societal and global influence.


Achbar, M., & Abbott, J. (2003). The corporation [Film]. Big Picture Media Corporation.

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