My Brother’s Keeper: A New Phase in the Debate on Corporate Responsibility

Johan Wempe*, Willeke Slingerland

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book / Report / Conference proceedingChapterAcademicpeer-review


In this article, we analyse whether it is possible to hold a loosely organised collective responsible for the effects it has on others. We consider the possibility of holding a loosely organised collective responsible by comparing it with a well-organised collective such as a corporation, a joint action (a collective lacking a formal organisation) and an aggregate. We explore the concept of responsibility of a loosely organised collective by analysing a concrete example: the responsibility of the major oil producers for climate change. We will argue that it is possible to apply the concept of responsibility to such loosely organised collectives. To understand this responsibility it is necessary to decouple the concept of responsibility from the concept of acting and to develop forward-looking (prospective) ethics. We will argue that individuals and organisations belonging to a loosely organised collective have a joint responsibility: to some extent, they are each other’s brother’s keeper.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationPerspectives on Philosophy of Management and Business Ethics
Subtitle of host publicationIncluding a Special Section on Business and Human Rights
EditorsJacob Dahl Rendtorff
Number of pages11
ISBN (Electronic)9783319469737
ISBN (Print)9783319469720, 9783319836300
Publication statusPublished - 2017

Publication series

NameEthical Economy
ISSN (Print)2211-2707
ISSN (Electronic)2211-2723

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2017, Springer International Publishing AG.

Copyright 2019 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.


  • Business Ethic
  • Collective Responsibility
  • Corporate Responsibility
  • Joint Action
  • Moral Responsibility


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