Professors Speak at University of Montreal Symposium on Corporate Social Responsibility and Sustainability
Web Editor - Published: October 14, 2012

Professor Larry Hamermesh


Professor Larry Barnett

“It has been apparent for several decades that a critical aspect of environmental issues has been largely ignored, and that is population growth,” said Professor Larry Barnett as he presented “The case for a cost‐analysis of law banning discrimination in employment” during a symposium held at the University of Montreal on Friday, October 12th that looked at whether a business can make a profit while also advancing environmental and social concerns.

Barnett and Institute of Delaware Corporate and Business Law Director Larry Hamermesh both spoke via remote connection at the conference. Hamermesh spoke earlier in the afternoon on a panel looking at benefit corporations, a new corporate legal structure that currently exists in ten to twelve states. By statute, benefit corporations have a responsibility to generate benefits for society as well as for shareholders.

Benefit corporations, said Hamermesh, “Define a business to include public goals – social or environmental – instead of just shareholder goals,” but he observed, “I have some concern that statutes like this could be used to shield management from accountability because it will be harder to determine that they are doing something improper.” He also stated that he was bothered by the implication that traditional corporations lack the ability to promote the public good.

Nothing that the law is a reactive institution rather than a proactive one, Professor Barnett discussed the cost-benefit analysis of employment discrimination laws. He sited a number of studies to support the conclusion that employment laws did not have the desired effect, and also concluded that laws in general do not seem to have a significant impact on the behaviors they are written to curtail. He used studies on crime rates, abortion, and divorce to illustrate that this particular phenomenon was not in fact unique to laws on employment discrimination.