The notion of corporate evil is popping up a bit in workshops and these Facebook discussions so I’m getting on to thinking about that idea further.
It’s all very subjective... my blood pressure rises instantly when I think of my evil accountant holding on to my 'economic stimulus cheque' for more than a week, but on the flipside, I guess he does an OK job for my annual tax return.
Other more obvious examples of corporate evil that involve financial fraud, human rights abuses, and environmental negligence impact us not only as individuals but as a human collective when our moral structures are seemingly failed. A corporate moral good existing in the framework of globalisation and capitalism may be something of an oxymoron.
Here are some obvious examples of corporate evil I’ve been looking into:
Exxon Valdez – In March 1989 an oil tanker spilt 10.9 million gallons of crude oil on the Alaskan coastline creating the greatest oil spill in American waters. In the days immediately after the oil spill, scientists estimated mass mortalities of 1000 to 2800 sea otters, 302 seals, and an astounding 250,000 seabirds. The Local economy loss was estimated to be between up to $580 million US dollars from tourism and recreation industry. For the last 15 years the health effects for 11,000 workers who were exposed to extremely high levels of toxic benzene vapour in the initial stages of cleanup have become a major concern.
ENRON – The company had a range of claims against it ranging from rigging California’s energy prices, years of fraudulent accounting practices, as well as corruption and conspiracy including insider trading. It finally sank to bankruptcy in 2001 after audits revealed the US$ 1billion annual profit was in fact a US$153 million cash flow deficit. “The company lost $60 billion in market value, long-serving employees lost more than $2 billion in pension money and 5,600 people lost their jobs” according to a Time magazine article. The Enron collapse is coined ‘the 9/11 of the financial world’ showing how the evil acts of a few have far reaching social consequences. You can see more at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0zMakN-EMLg
Corporate abuses don’t stop with environmental disasters and creative accounting leading to stock-market crashes. The claims against Nike for human rights abuses, including child labour, show the degree to which corporate responsibility can fail us as a population over two centuries beyond the industrial revolution.
And all in the name of progress! (?)
I'd love to hear your thoughts on this and how 'corporate evil' stories may be communicated in a museum display.