In one sense, the extraordinary rise of Internet and communication technology has very much denied corporations a traditional advantage: autonomy. This is not to suggest that corporations have been in the past able to, or entitled to, disregard ethics or engage in questionable business policies; rather, it refers more to the fact that a simple degree of privacy was in place in regard to practices. The lessened channels of communication inherently allowed greater freedom of action, and in regard to all stakeholders, be they consumers, employees, or management. As communication was limited, so too was there a lesser expectation of justification for policies, if only because a lack of spontaneous interaction – and reaction – translated to a more open course for the corporation. Whether this advantage was used for good or otherwise is irrelevant; what matters is that there was, in plain terms, greater corporate license.
However, the loss of this advantage in today’s world offers new ones. On one level, diminished autonomy in this case translates to lessened responsibility, for the stakeholders today are too influential as presences, and no single “management” carries the burden of corporate direction. Consistent feedback from consumers alone now essentially informs the corporation of what directions it should consider. Similarly, employees of all ranks now have worldwide forums in which to make themselves heard, a fact dangerous for the corporation to ignore. In losing autonomy, then, the corporation becomes a different type of entity. Expanded in terms of exposure and accessibility, it is now able to serve society, and be served by it, in ways apart from the strictly commercial. An example of this is the corporation choosing to address environmental issues not related to its own business, but now perceived as important to the society, and consequently to the corporation’s consumers as stakeholders. However this reality continues to evolve, it seem clear that today’s corporations, beholden to global and local interests now interactive with it, have the opportunity to expand in ways previously unthinkable.