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Will the Real “Best 50″ Corporate Citizens List Please Stand Up!


Sunday, June 21st, 2009




Was it malicious encroachment on intellectual property, or lack of imagination?

From MastheadOnline: Corporate Knights challenges Maclean’s on coporate citizen list

For eight years, Corporate Knights magazine has published a list of the “Best 50 Corporate Citizens in ” and this year’s edition is scheduled for distribution to 95,000 subscribers through the Globe and Mail on June 22. The current issue of Maclean’s, dated June 22, also features a story on “’s 50 best corporate citizens.” Yesterday morning, Toby Heaps, editor-in-chief of Corporate Knights, issued a press release arguing that the Maclean’s feature encroaches on his magazine’s trademark….

A lawsuit is even underway, or at least being threatened.

I’ll let the lawyers squabble over intellectual property law, and whether a phrase like “50 best corporate citizens” can be a legally-protected trademark or not. But an argument could be made that muscling in on KN’s well-established terminology is at least ethically dodgy. Couldn’t Macleans have used a different, equivalent title? I mean, surely there are other ways of expressing the same idea. More on this below.

Now, as it happens, the online version of Macleans’s list doesn’t seem mention citizenship at all, but is instead called Jantzi-Macleans 50 Most Socially Responsible Corporations. It seems, for whatever reason, that Maclean’s editors have had a change of heart.

(The latest Corporate Knights list is due out in a few days. Here’s the link to their methodology, etc.)

Of course, just what either list has to do specifically with citizenship — as opposed to merely being good — is still quite unclear, a fact that’s only emphasized by the fact that Macleans has so easily changed the title of the online version of its report. Oh, heck…”social responsibility,” “citizenship”… what’s the difference? Good question.

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    AUTHOR
    Chris MacDonald

    Chris MacDonald is Associate Professor in the Philosophy Department at Saint Mary's University (Halifax, Canada). He is also Coordinator of SMU's M.A. Programme in Philosophy and he runs the The Business Ethics Blog.

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    CATEGORIES: +english | Business Ethics Blog by Prof. Chris MacDonald | Canada | member news

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