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Vinst och samhällsansvar - En studie av ändamålet med aktiebolagslagstiftningen, vinstsyftet och dess förhållande till hållbar utveckling

Axelson, Jonas LU (2016) JURM02 20161
Department of Law
Abstract (Swedish)
Forskning har visat att ett konstant ökat materiellt välstånd inte är möjligt med hänsyn till jordens begränsade resurser, klimatförändringarna eller för att möjliggöra en hållbar utveckling. Uppsatsen undersöker förhållandet mellan den norm att aktiebolagsverksamhet ska syfta till att maximera avkastningen till aktieägarna och därigenom nyttan i samhället, mätt i materiellt välstånd, och behovet av att samhället möjliggör en miljömässigt hållbar utveckling. Uppsatsen ämnar att, med utgångspunkt i den svenska aktiebolags-lagstiftningen, utifrån ett rättskritiskt perspektiv beskriva och analysera hur vinstsyftets betydelse som bolagsstyrningsmekanism motiveras i den rättsvetenskapliga doktrinen och hur detta förhindrar företag från att ta... (More)
Forskning har visat att ett konstant ökat materiellt välstånd inte är möjligt med hänsyn till jordens begränsade resurser, klimatförändringarna eller för att möjliggöra en hållbar utveckling. Uppsatsen undersöker förhållandet mellan den norm att aktiebolagsverksamhet ska syfta till att maximera avkastningen till aktieägarna och därigenom nyttan i samhället, mätt i materiellt välstånd, och behovet av att samhället möjliggör en miljömässigt hållbar utveckling. Uppsatsen ämnar att, med utgångspunkt i den svenska aktiebolags-lagstiftningen, utifrån ett rättskritiskt perspektiv beskriva och analysera hur vinstsyftets betydelse som bolagsstyrningsmekanism motiveras i den rättsvetenskapliga doktrinen och hur detta förhindrar företag från att ta ett ansvar för en miljömässigt hållbar utveckling.

Aktiebolaget anses, genom dess förmåga att ackumulera kapital och underlätta näringsverksamhet, vara en viktig förklaring till den utvecklade delen av världens ekonomiska utveckling under det senaste århundradet. Företagsverksamhet i aktiebolagsform har en stor förmåga att skapa tillväxt och skapa ekonomiskt välstånd i samhället. I 3 kap. 3 § aktiebolagslagen (2005:551) föreskrivs att om inget annat är angivet i bolagsordningen ska syftet med verksamheten vara att generera vinst till fördelning mellan aktieägarna. I den rättsvetenskapliga doktrinen råder en uppfattning om att en bolagsledning har som övergripande uppgift att maximera avkastningen på aktieägarnas insatta kapital, så länge detta sker enligt lagar och etiska normer.

Genom en redogörelse av den rättspolitiska bakgrunden beskrivs vilka uppfattningar om företagens samhällsansvar som lagstiftaren har gett uttryck för genom aktiebolagslagstiftningens framväxt. I denna del visas att lagstiftaren genom historien understrukit aktiebolagens betydelse för samhällsekonomin men också att aktiebolagens samhällsansvarstagande har varit av betydelse. Vidare beskrivs och analyseras den dominerande uppfattningen inom den rättsvetenskapliga doktrinen som beskriver aktiebolagslagstiftningens funktion, vinstsyftets funktion som bolags-styrningsmekanism och vilket samhällsansvar företagen har. De ökande kraven på företagens samhällsansvar utöver vinstmaximering utreds också och hur kraven på företagens samhällsansvar inte överensstämmer med den dominerande uppfattningen i den rättsvetenskapliga doktrinen.

I det avslutande kapitlet redogörs för vilken inverkan klimatförändringarna väntas ha på samhället, de mål som uppställts för att minska denna inverkan och möjliggöra en miljömässigt hållbar utveckling. Här beskrivs också vilka förändringar i den ekonomiska aktiviteten i samhället som har hävdats behöva förändras för att uppnå dessa mål. Vinstsyftets funktion som bolagsstyrningsmekanism anknyts till behovet av att förhindra klimat-förändringarna och behovet av att uppnå en miljömässigt hållbar utveckling. Uppsatsen problematiserar kring det ekonomiska systemets uppbyggnad, förhållandet mellan företagens förmåga att skapa tillväxt och välstånd samt staters behov av detta för att till exempel trygga syssel-sättningen och finansieringen av välfärden.

Uppsatsen visar att, i en värld med begränsade resurser och klimat-förändringar kan företagen inte bara ta ett ansvar för att maximera nyttan mätt i materiellt välstånd utan måste även ta ett ansvar för att minimera deras skadliga inverkan på miljön. Utifrån detta dras slutsatsen att vinstsyftet behöver förändras och sättas i förhållande till ett längre tidsperspektiv med hänsyn till jordens begräsningar, för att kunna nå en miljömässigt hållbar utveckling. (Less)
Abstract
Research has demonstrated a causal link between the consistent growth in total human material wealth over the recent centuries and the consumption of the Earth's limited resources at the expense of the natural environment. For a multiplicity of reasons, it is now clear that it is no longer possible for capital accumulation and the rate of growth to continue at the rate it previously has if an environmentally sustainable form of development shall possible to achieve. This study examines the relationship between the traditional view of limited liability companies contributing to the benefit of society by facilitating the increase of material wealth through their aim to maximize the return to their shareholders, and the now critical need to... (More)
Research has demonstrated a causal link between the consistent growth in total human material wealth over the recent centuries and the consumption of the Earth's limited resources at the expense of the natural environment. For a multiplicity of reasons, it is now clear that it is no longer possible for capital accumulation and the rate of growth to continue at the rate it previously has if an environmentally sustainable form of development shall possible to achieve. This study examines the relationship between the traditional view of limited liability companies contributing to the benefit of society by facilitating the increase of material wealth through their aim to maximize the return to their shareholders, and the now critical need to realise global environmentally sustainable development. From a critical legal perspective, and with a starting point in the Swedish company law, this study intends to describe and analyse the importance of the profit motive as a corporate governance mechanism, how it is justified in the legal doctrine and how it functions to prevent companies from taking responsibility for an environmentally sustainable development.

The creation and proliferation of the limited liability company is, thanks to its ability to accumulate capital and facilitate business activities, considered to be an important explanation for the developed world's economic development over the past century. The limited liability company has played a significant role in enabling the creation of growth and prosperity in society. In Section 3 Article 3 of the Swedish Companies Act (2005:551) it is stated that, unless otherwise stated in the Articles of Association, the purpose of the business is to generate profits for distribution among the shareholders.
In society and in the legal doctrine there is a widespread perception that a company's board and management has the duty to maximize the return on the shareholder’s investment, as long as their operations are in accordance with the relevant laws and ethical standards.

By undertaking a review of the historical development of the company law, this study examines the legislators view on the overall purpose of the limited liability company in society and its relationship with corporate social responsibility. The study shows that the legislature through history has emphasized the importance of corporations for the economy whilst similarly expressing the need for corporate social responsibility.

Furthermore, this study describes and analyses the dominant school of thought in the legal doctrine that describes the function of company law and of the profit motive as a corporate governance mechanism which determine the extent to which corporations owe a duty of social responsibility. The increasing demand for corporate social responsibility beyond profit maximization is also considered and investigated. As a result, this study attempts to demonstrate that these increasing requirements do not conform with the dominant view of the underlying purpose of the limited liability company.

The final chapter outlines the expected impacts climate change will have on society, the goals set for reducing these impacts and the fundamental necessity to promote an environmentally sustainable development. It will also describe the changes in economic development that have been deemed necessary to reach these goals. The profit motive as a corporate governance mechanism and the range of detrimental environmental issues it has directly produced is then linked to the need to prevent further climate change and to work towards an environmentally sustainable development. The study highlights the increasingly self-evident flaws in the fundamental structure and model of growth of the capitalist economic system, the relationship between the ability of corporations to generate economic wealth and the states need for this in order to safeguard the overall employment level and welfare of the people.

The study finds that, in a world with limited natural resources and increasing negative climate change, companies can no longer only have the responsibility to maximize the benefits to society in terms of material wealth, but now must also have a responsibility to minimize their harmful impact on the environment. From this it is concluded that the position of the profit motive as the central aim underlying the operation of corporations needs to be rethought and replaced in order to reach the goal of an environmentally sustainable development. (Less)
Please use this url to cite or link to this publication:
author
Axelson, Jonas LU
supervisor
organization
alternative title
Profit and social responsibility - A study of the purpose of company law, the profit objective and its relation to sustainable development
course
JURM02 20161
year
type
H3 - Professional qualifications (4 Years - )
subject
keywords
associationsrätt, rättsekonomi, hållbar utveckling, samhällsansvar, aktiebolagslagen
language
Swedish
id
8873596
date added to LUP
2016-06-03 11:25:12
date last changed
2016-09-26 12:39:04
@misc{8873596,
  abstract     = {Research has demonstrated a causal link between the consistent growth in total human material wealth over the recent centuries and the consumption of the Earth's limited resources at the expense of the natural environment. For a multiplicity of reasons, it is now clear that it is no longer possible for capital accumulation and the rate of growth to continue at the rate it previously has if an environmentally sustainable form of development shall possible to achieve. This study examines the relationship between the traditional view of limited liability companies contributing to the benefit of society by facilitating the increase of material wealth through their aim to maximize the return to their shareholders, and the now critical need to realise global environmentally sustainable development. From a critical legal perspective, and with a starting point in the Swedish company law, this study intends to describe and analyse the importance of the profit motive as a corporate governance mechanism, how it is justified in the legal doctrine and how it functions to prevent companies from taking responsibility for an environmentally sustainable development.

The creation and proliferation of the limited liability company is, thanks to its ability to accumulate capital and facilitate business activities, considered to be an important explanation for the developed world's economic development over the past century. The limited liability company has played a significant role in enabling the creation of growth and prosperity in society. In Section 3 Article 3 of the Swedish Companies Act (2005:551) it is stated that, unless otherwise stated in the Articles of Association, the purpose of the business is to generate profits for distribution among the shareholders. 
In society and in the legal doctrine there is a widespread perception that a company's board and management has the duty to maximize the return on the shareholder’s investment, as long as their operations are in accordance with the relevant laws and ethical standards.

By undertaking a review of the historical development of the company law, this study examines the legislators view on the overall purpose of the limited liability company in society and its relationship with corporate social responsibility. The study shows that the legislature through history has emphasized the importance of corporations for the economy whilst similarly expressing the need for corporate social responsibility. 

Furthermore, this study describes and analyses the dominant school of thought in the legal doctrine that describes the function of company law and of the profit motive as a corporate governance mechanism which determine the extent to which corporations owe a duty of social responsibility. The increasing demand for corporate social responsibility beyond profit maximization is also considered and investigated. As a result, this study attempts to demonstrate that these increasing requirements do not conform with the dominant view of the underlying purpose of the limited liability company. 

The final chapter outlines the expected impacts climate change will have on society, the goals set for reducing these impacts and the fundamental necessity to promote an environmentally sustainable development. It will also describe the changes in economic development that have been deemed necessary to reach these goals. The profit motive as a corporate governance mechanism and the range of detrimental environmental issues it has directly produced is then linked to the need to prevent further climate change and to work towards an environmentally sustainable development. The study highlights the increasingly self-evident flaws in the fundamental structure and model of growth of the capitalist economic system, the relationship between the ability of corporations to generate economic wealth and the states need for this in order to safeguard the overall employment level and welfare of the people. 

The study finds that, in a world with limited natural resources and increasing negative climate change, companies can no longer only have the responsibility to maximize the benefits to society in terms of material wealth, but now must also have a responsibility to minimize their harmful impact on the environment. From this it is concluded that the position of the profit motive as the central aim underlying the operation of corporations needs to be rethought and replaced in order to reach the goal of an environmentally sustainable development.},
  author       = {Axelson, Jonas},
  keyword      = {associationsrätt,rättsekonomi,hållbar utveckling,samhällsansvar,aktiebolagslagen},
  language     = {swe},
  note         = {Student Paper},
  title        = {Vinst och samhällsansvar - En studie av ändamålet med aktiebolagslagstiftningen, vinstsyftet och dess förhållande till hållbar utveckling},
  year         = {2016},
}