Values in Tension: Ethics Away from Home

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  • Question: what does a company do when it goes to another country, and the laws, ethical values, etc are different from those in its home countries?
  • Cultural relativism - no one countries values are better than another's; do whatever is accepted in the country that you are doing business in
    • Issue: There are somethings that are definitely immoral, so if we have this philosophy then there will be some grave injustices done
  • Ethical imperialism - do everywhere exactly how you would do at home; there is a single set of truths that should be applied everywhere in the world
    • Issues:
      • People in different cultures have to be respected
      • Moral truths can be expressed using different concepts
      • It ignores the fact that moral decisions occur in context.
  • Three principles to follow:
    • Respect core human values (this is the "absolute moral threshold")
    • "Respect local traditions"
    • Use context to determine actions when faces with a morally ambiguous decision
  • There are three core human values:
    • People should not be treated as tools to an end
    • People should be treated in a way which respects basic human rights
    • Members of a community should work to improving infrastructure on which the community depends.
  • If there is a credo for a company, it should also have:
    • Explicit instructions on how the values play out in the real world.
    • Room in it for a manager to make a judgment call.
  • What happens when there are conflicts of tradition between the home country and the country in which business is being done? Ask the following questions
    • "Would the practice be acceptable at home if my country were in a similar stage of economic development?"
    • "Is it possible to conduct business successfully in the host country without undertaking the practice?"
    • "Is the practice a violation of a core human value?"
  • Useful guidelines
    • Treat corporate values as absolutes no matter what the context
    • Create plans in advance on how to deal with both customers and suppliers
    • Get input from foreign business units as to what the ethical standards should be.
    • Support efforts in the host country to decrease the amount of institutional corruption (through the media, or by helping local organizations)
    • Be morally imaginative
      • Ex. find a way to get education for child laborers
      • Ex. find a way to get favor of the government without bribing.