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Business and Professional Ethics Journal

Volume 34, Issue 2, Summer 2015

Julian Friedland
Pages 215-236
DOI: 10.5840/bpej2015111334

Sustainability, Public Health, and the Corporate Duty to Assist

Several European and North American states encourage or even require, via good Samaritan and duty to rescue laws, that persons assist others in distress. This paper offers a utilitarian and contractualist defense of this view as applied to corporations. It is argued that just as we should sometimes frown on bad Samaritans who fail to aid persons in distress, we should also frown on bad corporate Samaritans who neglect to use their considerable multinational power to undertake disaster relief or to confront widespread social ills such as those currently befalling public health (obesity) and the environment (climate change). As such, the corporate duty to assist approach provides a novel justification for sustainable business practices in such cases. The paper concludes by arguing that traditional stakeholder approaches have not articulated this duty of assistance obligation, though a new utilitarian stakeholder theory by Thomas Jones and Will Felps may be coextensive.