The Code For Corporate
Responsibility (California SB 917): An Idea Whose Time Has Come
A Litmus Test For All Political Candidates?
Since when do Rabbi Michael Lerner and the National Lawyers Guild
of Los Angeles agree? How about author Thom Hartmann and Loyola Law
Professor Robert Benson, on the pro and con sides respectively, of abolishing
corporate personhood as a corporate reform strategy? Throw into this
mix Marjorie Kelley, editor of Business Ethics magazine, and commentator
Jim Hightower, as well as the National Alliance for Democracy, California
NOW, Santa Cruz Green Party and Southern California Americans for Democratic
Action. All of these individuals and groups are amongst those who agree
that the Code for Corporate Responsibility (introduced in California
as Senate Bill 917 by Senator
Richard Alarcon) is an idea whose time has come.
The Code requires corporate directors to ensure that profits do not
come at the expense of five elements of the public interest: (i) the
environment, (ii) human rights, (iii) public health and safety, (iv)
the welfare of communities and (v) employee dignity. Corporate attorney
Robert Hinkley wrote a Model Uniform Code so that the Code for Corporate
Responsibility can be adopted into the existing corporate codes of all
50 states. The Code consists primarily of 28 words whose insertion into
existing law changes the purpose of corporations from simply "making
money" to "making money, but not at the expense of the environment,
human rights, the public health or safety, the communities in which
the corporation operates or the dignity of its employees."
The Code is proactive. Unlike most corporate reform measures, it goes
beyond withholding, threatening or punitive actions that take place
belatedly after corporate malfeasance has already injured the public
interest. It provides corporations with a positive direction to go.
At the same time, the Code imposes strict liability on corporations
and their directors if they violate the Code. It provides exemptions
for small business, and a transition period for compliance. The Code
presents no constitutional issues; to become law, it only requires passage
by the state legislature and the signature of the governor. Endorsement
of the Code (SB 917) should become a litmus test for all 2004 election
On October 28th, the Onion Tuesday Night Forum will feature Maria
Armoudian, Senator Alarcon's legislative aide, who will speak on the
Code (SB 917). On November 25th, the Onion will feature call-in speaker
and Model Uniform Code for Corporate Responsibility author Robert Hinkley,
who will speak on "The Next Step In Corporate Evolution."
The new ad hoc California Corporate Reform Working Group (CalCORE)
works with state and national activists to enact corporate reform legislation,
including the Code for Corporate Responsibility (SB 917). CalCORE seeks
additional endorsers and activists to lobby state legislators at their
district offices during the current legislative recess. See http://www.c4cr.org
for more information about the Code or visit http://groups.yahoo.com/group/c4cr_california/.