Abstract: In Good Company? How to Introduce Morals into Business: A Case Study of the Carl Zeiss Foundation

Sebastian Demel


How can morals be implemented into business? The paper investigates this issue by having a closer look at the German physicist and entrepreneur Ernst Abbe. He instituted his own personal values into a new corporate governance structure, when he transferred one of the leading companies in the optical industries, the workshops of Carl Zeiss and its partner company Schott, an innovator in glass chemistry, into the ownership of a foundation with legal capacities in 1889. Abbe was able to convince his business partners that a successful company can operate best when without personal ownership. The two pillars of the Carl Zeiss Foundation were to manage the businesses in its possession and to promote science and support the social needs of the local workforce in the small town of Jena. With its distinct approach, the Zeiss Foundation therefore contributes to recent debates about the role and possibilities of corporate governance and social responsibility.