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Can the corporate soul be saved?

June 6, 2003
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A new book recommends a series of corporate reforms that mirror those advocated by the corporate social responsibility and socially responsible investment communities.

David Batstone bases his book, "Saving the Corporate Soul & (Who Knows?) Maybe Your Own," on the premise that there is such a thing as a corporate soul. While the law readily accepts corporations as persons, the notion that a corporation has a soul seems like more of a stretch, but it's something a number of safety and health pros have wrestled with, in their position as the "conscience" of the organization.

The book sets forth a series of suggestions to remedy the crisis of confidence in corporate America regardless of whether readers consider corporations soulful or soulless.

Consider, for example, Principle One:

"The directors and executives of a company will align their personal interests with the fate of stakeholders and act in a responsible way to ensure the viability of the enterprise," states Batstone. The author is a founding editor of Business 2.0 magazine as well as a former CEO of a technology firm.

Batstone enumerates the specific implications of enacting such a principle. For example, he calls on companies to expense stock options. A stock option is an option to buy stock at usually a below-market price; a stock option is granted to an employee as an incentive to raise the market value of the company. Expensing stock options means a company assigns a dollar value to the shares that employees are given the option to buy. A company would then recognize that dollar value as an expense it paid.

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