The Business Corporation as a Political Actor


18 February 2021
15:00 - 17:00

Online workshop on the Corporate Social Audit (CSA)


Corporations can be powerful engines of prosperity in a narrow economic sense, and for the public good more broadly conceived. But they need to be properly incentivized to fulfill these missions. To better incentivize them, we propose an innovative plan that we call the Corporate Social Audit (CSA). Every four years, all large corporations will be graded according to their contribution to the public good, with financial consequences attached to their grades. The scheme can be varied along a number of parameters: which evaluation criteria to use; who should make the assessments; which financial consequences to impose. Throughout the paper, we discuss possible variations on each of these parameters, and defend our own choices. The CSA radicalizes the corporate license to operate. To retain legitimacy in the eyes of wider segments of society, the proposal aims to democratize the way we hold corporations accountable for the power they wield.


Rutger Claassen is professor of Political Philosophy & Economic Ethics, at Utrecht University.

Michael Bennett is postdoctoral researcher at Utrecht University.