Business Ethics Cross-Cultural Ethics
Harry Lime’s immortal view of the world "In Italy, for thirty years under the Borgias, they had warfare, terror, murder, bloodshed, but they produced Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci and the Renaissance. In Switzerland, they had brotherly love; they had 500 years of democracy and peace - and what did that produce? The cuckoo clock."THE THIRD MAN (1949). Screenplay, Graham Greene. This speech, Orson Wells.
RELATIVISM Relativism – descriptively true. Societies do differ in their ethical beliefs, eg. about killing, about property, about education, about the roles of the sexes, about religious observance.
Relativism – the strengths • Relativism encourages tolerance • Relativism encourages openness • Relativism allows people to choose the values that suit them best • Relativism allow for morality to change • Relativism encourages respect for other individuals and societies
Are these strengths only of relativism? Are not tolerance and respect for others aspects of other ethical theories? Is not relativism more about indifference than respect? Does not relativism require us to be less committed to our own ethical values?
Note the distinction between descriptive and normative ethics Does ethical relativism base its norm of respect on the fact that cultures do in fact differ? Does it assert on the basis of difference that some things ought to be done and that others should not be? Remember the logical distinction between is and ought .
Implications of relativism • We cannot criticise other cultures, but we cannot learn from them or them from us. • There can be no moral progress. • There is no reason to be concerned for people in other cultures or to work towards change (eg. the elimination of poverty or child labour) but reason to be unconcerned or indifferent.
Suggestions for trans-national business ethics • do no intentional harm in the host country. • benefit the host country and its development. • respect the human rights of workers. • respect the values, culture and laws of the host country as long as these do not involve moral inconsistency or the abridgment of human rights. • assist the building of just background institutions in the host country and internationally. Richard De George, Competing with Integrity in International Business, (New York1993) 46-56.
The costs of indifference Classic campaigns against • Nestle • Nike • Shell • McDonalds
Where there is very little floor Wages: should MNCs pay the same wages in a host country as it pays at home? Conditions: should an MNC provide similar conditions for employees from host countries? Should MNCs exploit the natural resources of developing nations? (Shell in Nigeria, BHP in PNG.)
Publicity and reputational damage • Cultural sensitivity on one hand and cultural relativism on the other are NOT philosophical questions for business. • Made real by markets, publicity and campaigns. • Metrics applied to performance. • TNCs have the presence of states: the responsibilities cannot be far behind …
Rank Country / Corporation 2000 1 United States 16 Russian Federation 2 Japan 17 Argentina 3 Germany 18 Switzerland 4 France 19 Belgium 5 United Kingdom 20 Sweden 6 Italy 21 Austria 7 China 22 Turkey 8 Brazil 23 General Motors 9 Canada 24 Denmark 10 Spain 25 Wal-Mart 11 Mexico 26 Exxon Mobil 12 India 27 Ford Motor 13 Korea, Rep. 28 DaimlerChrysler 14 Australia 29 Poland 15 Netherlands