Is 7-Eleven My “Neighbour”?

I live on the edge of Toronto’s Little Portugal. There are two corner stores in my neighbourhood. One is a 7-Eleven. The other is a small, family-owned convenience store. I shop at both stores from time to time — to pick up eggs, bread, whatever.

Is there any ethical difference between shopping at 7-Eleven, on one hand, and shopping at the little Portuguese place, on the other?

At least some advocates of the “buy local” movement would say I absolutely ought to shop at the locally-owned Portuguese place. After all, it’s a part of my community, whereas 7-Eleven is a multinational corporate entity. But wait…7-Eleven is a franchise. So even though the parent company isn’t local, the owners of the franchise very likely are. The owners of that franchise are just as much part of my community as the owners of the Portuguese place are…minus the franchise fee they pay to Seven-Eleven Japan Co. Ltd. (Does that count?)

But still, the 7-Eleven, even if locally-owned, is still part of the 7-Eleven empire. When I shop at my 7-Eleven, I’m patronizing that empire. I am, to some extent, entering into a relationship with the parent company. So this question occurs to me: is Seven-Eleven Japan Co. Ltd. in any sense my “neighbour”, one to which (or to whom!) I owe the neighbourly obligation of shopping at their franchise?

Major corporations are increasingly expected to think of themselves as good neighbours, and as having obligations to local communities. But the “neighbour” relation is generally thought of as being reciprocal, as are the duties it implies. If you are my neighbour, then I am your neighbour, and vice versa. So if 7-Eleven, and other major corporations, are expected to act as good a neighbour, should we all reciprocate, and act as good neighbours to them in turn?

I don’t have an answer to offer to this question. But I think the reciprocity that is normally a feature of the concept “neighbour” ought to be part of the larger conversation about how we think of the role of business corporations not just in our economy, but in our communities.

1 comment so far

  1. andreabcreative on

    I love this. It’s a great way to “humanize” the faceless corporation. Of course many of them are franchised and the owners are members of our local communities. “CSR is also termed corporate citizenship” (Zhang & Swanson, 2006, pg. 2) and corporations need to make it a priority to “translate [their] citizenship into meaningful programs and imbedding it in business” (Zhang & Swanson, 2006, pg. 1).

    It really puts into perspective this excerpt:

    “The key difference between global and local CSR is the community that demands it. A local community is a self-defined, self-circumscribed group of people who interact in the context of shared tasks, values or goals and who are capable of establishing norms of ethical behavior for themselves. In contrast, hypernorms or fundamental principles about moral rights and obligations reflect a set of standards to which all societies can be held. Thus, local CSR deals with the firm’s obligations based on the standards of the local community, whereas global CSR deals with the firm’s obligations based on those standards to which all societies can be held” (Husted et al., 2006, pg. 4).

    And for businesses like your 7-eleven, it seems that they must work to achieve both the involvement at the local level and the obligations at the global level. And as we know, many firms “do not always manage corporate social responsibility strategically” (Husted et al., 2006, pg. 2) which brings in a new level of opportunities. How do we ensure that companies—especially those that are members of the local and global community—are invested and practicing corporate social responsibility.

    “In the corporate world, numerous laws and extensive government regulation affect virtually every aspect of business activities” (Angelidis et al., 2008, pg. 1). But it can’t end there, responsibility is following the law, but laws aren’t all encompassing. At a point, common sense must emerge as the guide for ethical behavior. But yet again, “Simply stated, the only common sense is the realization that there is no universal common sense” (Arnett et al., 2008, pg. 65).

    So where does that leave us? Maybe it’s personal preference or maybe it’s a belief system. Or maybe it’s just who has the best cup of coffee.

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