Business is facing scrutiny and challenge as never before. The post-communist world has brought unprecedented opportunity to companies as regions previously closed behind ideological or political barriers have opened their doors. It has also brought unprecedented challenge. A more critical society, informed by the internet, is increasingly asking whether companies contribute to the problems or to the solutions of a world of growing economic inequality, environmental degradation, widespread civil conflict and human rights violations.
The truth is they do both. The public limited company has proved the most effective instrument so far known for the provision of goods and services that people need and want and for the creation of financial wealth. But as its spread and influence have grown, increasing public awareness of the social and environmental costs of its operations and of its impact on human rights has led to demands that companies should take responsibility for the total impact of their operations.