Corporate Responsibility at JPM

Upon reading the articles by Milton Friedman and R. Edward Freeman, I instantly began thinking about one of my experiences working for JPMorgan Chase. Throughout my 10 weeks with the company, I continuously received emails and attended events preaching the importance of corporate responsibility, philanthropy, and community involvement. As a major bank in the high of financial scrutiny, it is not surprising that the company is so aggressive to push all that it has accomplished in these areas. Yet, at the same time, it is hard to determine how invested it really is in the hundreds of projects that it sponsors and donates money to.

In fact, one project that the company asked all of the interns to undertake was to research and pitch a philanthropic organization to which it should donate to. Though a very beneficial project to both us interns and the organization receiving the donation, the effort does not seem quite as sincere after taking a closer look. Seeing that the bank is the world’s largest in terms of total assets, the $5,000 it set aside to donate to the winning cause is insignificant and even shows that the company may not be all that concerned with the cause. On top of this, the company paid for the flights and hotel rooms of each of the interns who were part of a final group and were based outside of New York in order for them to come and pitch their organization in person. Undoubtedly, this expense ended up being more than the actual donation made.

Ultimately, the reasoning behind writing about this experience is the fact that it is very relevant to the points made in these two articles, particularly to those made in Milton’s article. In the article, Friedman talks about the difference between acting truly socially responsible and doing so out of self-interest to generate goodwill. In this case, Milton would most likely argue that the latter point is more relevant. Clearly, the company was not greatly committed to the cause given the insignificant sum provided and was mostly acting because it felt it ‘ought’ to do so. Almost every major bank partakes in intern projects such as this one, and so it becomes quite clear that the project was created as a way to stay competitive with its counterparts and increase its external image. Just as Milton indicates in the article, it is hard to fault the company for creating a project such as this as it does contribute to social betterment. However, it is important to be able to distinguish efforts made to truly act responsibly from those that are partly/entirely done to benefit the company. In the end, Milton would most likely view the company’s efforts as problematic in that it is not something that it would be inclined to do without the pressure of outside forces.

By Chris M. Posted in Blog 1

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