Social Enterprises in The Corporation Documentary

Social enterprises are business structures aimed not just to maximize profit but also to reach specific socio-environmental goals. The Corporation (2003), the award-winning Canadian documentary, examines the modern corporation and criticizes it for disregarding human well-being and concerning only with money. The documentary illustrates how the modern-day corporation functions and does economic activities. This essay argues that the corporation demonstrates the ability to generate a majority of its income from business activities by neglecting ethical norms related to the environment and people.

For being called a social enterprise, organizations should have clear social, cultural, environmental, or other missions. Sustainability is a top priority of such business structures, as they should conduct deals without any harm to the environment and human beings. However, not all organizations do their business activities following ecological and even moral principles. By providing interviews with 40 people, the documentary shows how a corporate company uses its legal status, which is similar to human rights and considers it as a “person” (The Corporation, 2003). It reveals negative views on corporate companies and illustrates how far they can go to sell their products.

As for every business structure, the ultimate goal is to maximize profit and minimize expenses. Organizations obtain material goods not only through successful negotiations and marketing strategies but also by cutting spending on socio-environmental issues. They abuse power, corrupt governmental elites, and creatively find ways of avoiding taxes to increase their profit. For example, business entities frequently use greenwashing, which is the act of misleading or disseminating consumers regarding the environmental practices of a company or the environmental benefits of a product or service (Schmuck et al., 2018). By having an active campaign for the eco-friendly company, it is easier to get public support and increases the popularity of products. The recent trends of eco-activism and living mindfully provoke many companies to transform their policies and mission towards ecology. Many companies fund various environmental projects, support eco-movements, and provide more natural experiments and research facilities. For example, cruelty-free cosmetics are now trendy due to social media resonance about animal testing. Social media actively demonstrates such environmental issues and concerns forcing companies to change their policies toward green politics.

Nevertheless, the changes towards a greener world by careful corporations are not fundamental. This is because green politics is expensive, so not beneficial for the companies. The documentary illustrates that for corporate companies, it is cheaper to produce new plastic bottles rather than recycle them or use reusable ones. Corporate companies are not ready to transform functioning machines to produce material goods. They use selective disclosure, which retains negative information and exposes positive information regarding the company’s environmental performance to create an overly optimistic corporate image. Such an image allows them to pretend to be “eco-friendly” and continue to harm the environment.

Social responsibilities and ethics are formal sayings in some modern-day business structures. They do not get caught due to their corruption mechanisms and do not lose money due to greenwashing and selective disclosure. Moreover, organizations have various ways of avoiding and undermining social and environmental responsibilities. For instance, they often rely on claims that there is no evidence of their fake or harmful actions. Some business structures use broad, misleading words, such as “pure,” “organic,” “natural,” and others. They tend to disregard environmental issues and policies to obtain maximum profit from their business activities. Therefore, social enterprises are reaching their economic goals but neglecting the environment.

Along with detrimental effects on the environment, modern corporations also contribute to social injustices and harassment. For example, the documentary shows two reporters from the FOX channel, Steve Wilson and Jane Akre, who were threatened by their boss. This example demonstrates how solid corporate control can be and its cruelty and aggression when achieving its goals. However, CEOs like Moody-Smith commented in the documentary that there are good men in corporations, the ones who care about the environment and people (The Corporation, 2003). Moody-Smith also points out that those few good men cannot go against the machine built to make money and nothing more. As such, CEOs accept that their business structures negatively impact their surroundings and also cause social inequalities.

Overall, modern social enterprises are the ones that successfully obtain profit by doing less harm to the environment and people. Social enterprises should have social and environmental missions to make the world a better place to live. However, modern business structures undermine ethical, social, and ecological responsibilities and are detrimental to human well-being. Due to social pressure, some corporate companies mask their eco-friendly image to continue making a profit. They use different methods, such as greenwashing, selective disclosure, and misleading words, to make people believe that they are concerned about the environment and people. Apart from causing harm to the environment and disregarding ecological issues, some modern-day business structures also contribute to social injustices and treat their employee badly to obtain what they want.

References

Achbar, M., Abbott, J., Bakan, J., Bakan, J., Big Picture Media Corporation., & Filmwest Associates. (2003). The corporation: A documentary. Vancouver, BC? Big Picture Media Corporation.

Schmuck, D., Matthes, J., & Naderer, B. (2018). Misleading consumers with green advertising? An affect–reason–involvement account of greenwashing effects in environmental advertising. Journal of Advertising, 47(2), 127-145.