Grounding and applying an ethical test to organisations as moral agents: The case of mondragon corporation

David Ardagh

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    Moral people (i) have good goals in acting in a challenging situation; and (ii) use their rightly disposed intellectual and voluntary capacities (virtues) and resources to choose a good action in that situation. This requires (iii) sound ethical deliberation and decision-procedures for realising practically the abstract values and principles relevant in the concrete situation. After deliberation about sub-goals and means, they (iv) choose to execute the best particular action plan. They will have canvassed possible outcomes of the intended act, which, when executed, will have a particular result and (v) consequent outcomes for themselves, and for others; and (vi) it will show respect for the wellbeing of the community or wider society, represented by the state, and reflected in state law. A comprehensive third-party moral judgement on the act will encompass the intention and execution of the act in the situation. Part 1, Sections I-IV of this paper argue that organisations can be said to be quasi-persons, personal and moral. As artificial organisational quasi-persons, with a similar structure to natural persons, they can also have analogues of the moral features of natural persons’ moral acts: i)-vi): good goals, rightly disposed capacities and resources, ethical decision procedures, good acts or activities, with good outcomes for others, and respect for society’s norms represented in state law. An ethical acronym, GREAOS, capturing the six dominant features shared with natural persons, is suggested. In Part 2, an application of GREAOS is then made to assess a concrete organisational case, Mondragon Corporation, in order to show how if the analogy between persons and organisations is sound in principle, the acronym’s application can be made to ethically unpack a case. The acronym gives Mondragon Corporation at least a pass on ethics. Although a work in progress, its success in realising ideals of economic democracy can be an exemplar of stakeholder capitalism, an alternative to an unbridled shareholder capitalism, which has had its day.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)465-491
    Number of pages27
    JournalPhilosophy of Management
    Issue number4
    Early online date15 Aug 2022
    Publication statusPublished - Dec 2022


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