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Monday, December 12, 2011

Strategic CSR - Legal Rights

The article by Joel Bakan in the url below contrasts the progress of two relatively recently established, legally-protected entities—corporations and children. First, children, which emerged as a protected class towards the end of the nineteenth century:

By the early 20th century, the “century of the child,” as a prescient book published in 1909 called it, was in full throttle. Most modern states embraced the general idea that government had a duty to protect the health, education and welfare of children.

Second, corporations, which gained their status as a “legal—albeit artificial—person” in the twentieth century:

Lawyers, policy makers and business lobbied successfully for various rights and entitlements traditionally connected, legally, with personhood.

Bakan, who co-authored the book and documentary, The Corporation (, argues that the interests of these two protected classes (children and corporations) are inherently in conflict:

Century-of-the-child reformers sought to resolve conflicts in favor of children. But over the last 30 years there has been a dramatic reversal: corporate interests now prevail. Deregulation, privatization, weak enforcement of existing regulations and legal and political resistance to new regulations have eroded our ability, as a society, to protect children.

In particular, he identifies childhood obesity, electronic media, childhood medication, and toxic chemicals exposure as areas where corporate behavior is fundamentally controlling and damaging child development. He concludes:

“…our current failure to provide stronger protection of children in the face of corporate-caused harm reveals a sickness in our societal soul.