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MGT 4190 Chapter 5 - Ethics, Corporate Social Responsibility and Sustainability
Terms in this set (32)
is a strategy, or course of action, that does not violate these accepted principles.
Questions of human rights can arise in international business. Basic human rights still are not respected in many nations. Rights taken for granted in developed nations, such as freedom of association, freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, freedom of movement, freedom from political repression
Foreign Corrupt Practices Act
The Lockheed case was the impetus for the 1977 passage of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act
The act outlawed the paying of bribes to foreign government officials to gain business. Some U.S. businesses immediately objected that the act would put U.S. firms at a competitive disadvantage (there is no evidence that has occurred). The act was subsequently amended to allow for "facilitating payments." Sometimes known as speed money or grease payments, facilitating payments are not payments to secure contracts that would not otherwise be secured, nor are they payments to obtain exclusive preferential treatment. Rather they are payments to ensure receiving the standard treatment that a business ought to receive from a foreign government.
they are situations in which none of the available alternatives seems ethically acceptable.
The roots of unethical behavior (six causes of unethical behavior)
unrealistic performance goals
Societal business ethics are not divorced from personal ethics, which are the generally accepted principles of right and wrong governing the conduct of individuals. As individuals, we are typically taught that it is wrong to lie and cheat—it is unethical—and that it is right to behave with integrity and honor and to stand up for what we believe to be right and true. This is generally true across societies. The personal ethical code that guides our behavior comes from a number of sources, including our parents, our schools, our religion, and the media. Our personal ethical code exerts a profound influence on the way we behave as businesspeople.
Values and norms shape the culture of a business organization, and that culture has an important influence on the ethics of business decision making.
The climate in some businesses does not encourage people to think through the ethical consequences of business decisions. This brings us to the third cause of unethical behavior in businesses—an organizational culture that deemphasizes business ethics, reducing all decisions to the purely economic. The term organizational culture
refers to the values and norms that are shared among employees of an organization.
The Hewlett-Packard example suggests a fifth root cause of unethical behavior—leadership. Leaders help to establish the culture of an organization, and they set the example that others follow. Other employees in a business often take their cue from business leaders, and if those leaders do not behave in an ethical manner, they might not either. It is not just what leaders say that matters, but what they do or do not do.
different philosophical approaches to ethics
Straw men approaches to business ethics are raised by business ethics scholars primarily to demonstrate that they offer inappropriate guidelines for ethical decision making in a multinational enterprise. Four such approaches to business ethics are commonly discussed in the literature.
These approaches can be characterized:
*The righteous moralist
*The naive immoralist.
All these approaches have some inherent value, but all are unsatisfactory in important ways. Nevertheless, sometimes companies adopt these approaches.
The Friedman Doctrine
The Friedman Doctrine The Nobel Prize-winning economist Milton Friedman wrote an article in The New York Times in 1970 that has since become a classic straw man example that business ethics scholars outline only to then tear down. Friedman's basic position is that "the social responsibility of business is to increase profits," so long as the company stays within the rules of law. He explicitly rejects the idea that businesses should undertake social expenditures beyond those mandated by the law and required for the efficient running of a business. For example, his arguments suggest that improving working conditions beyond the level required by the law and necessary to maximize employee productivity will reduce profits and are therefore not appropriate. His belief is that a firm should maximize its profits because that is the way to maximize the returns that accrue to the owners of the firm, its shareholders. If the shareholders then wish to use the proceeds to make social investments, that is their right, according to Friedman, but managers of the firm should not make that decision for them. He states:
In a free-enterprise, private-property system, a corporate executive is an employee of the owners of the business.
Another straw man often raised by business ethics scholars is cultural relativism, which is the belief that ethics are nothing more than the reflection of a culture—all ethics are culturally determined—and that accordingly, a firm should adopt the ethics of the culture in which it is operating. This approach is often summarized by the maxim when in Rome, do as the Romans. As with Friedman's approach, cultural relativism does not stand up to a closer look. At its extreme, cultural relativism suggests that if a culture supports slavery, it is okay to use slave labor in a country. Clearly, it is not! Cultural relativism implicitly rejects the idea that universal notions of morality transcend different cultures, but, as we argue later in the chapter, some universal notions of morality are found across cultures.
A righteous moralist
claims that a multinational's home-country standards of ethics are the appropriate ones for companies to follow in foreign countries. This approach is typically associated with managers from developed nations.
A naive immoralist
if a manager of a multinational sees that firms from other nations are not following ethical norms in a host nation, that manager should not either.
UTILITARIAN AND KANTIAN ETHICS
In contrast to the straw men just discussed, most moral philosophers see value in utilitarian and Kantian approaches to business ethics. These approaches were developed in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, and although they have been largely superseded by more modern approaches, they form part of the tradition upon which newer approaches have been constructed.
The utilitarian approach to business ethics dates to philosophers such as David Hume (1711-1776), Jeremy Bentham (1748-1832), and John Stuart Mill (1806-1873). Utilitarian approaches to ethics hold that the moral worth of actions or practices is determined by their consequences. An action is judged desirable if it leads to the best possible balance of good consequences over bad consequences. Utilitarianism is committed to the maximization of good and the minimization of harm. Utilitarianism recognizes that actions have multiple consequences, some of which are good in a social sense and some of which are harmful. As a philosophy for business ethics, it focuses attention on the need to weigh carefully all the social benefits and costs of a business action and to pursue only those actions where the benefits outweigh the costs. The best decisions, from a utilitarian perspective, are those that produce the greatest good for the greatest number of people.
Kantian ethics is based on the philosophy of Immanuel Kant (1724-1804). Kantian ethics holds that people should be treated as ends and never purely as means to the ends of others. People are not instruments, like a machine. People have dignity and need to be respected as such. Employing people in sweatshops, making them work long hours for low pay in poor work conditions, is a violation of ethics, according to Kantian philosophy, because it treats people as mere cogs in a machine and not as conscious moral beings that have dignity. Although contemporary moral philosophers tend to view Kant's ethical philosophy as incomplete—for example, his system has no place for moral emotions or sentiments such as sympathy or caring—the notion that people should be respected and treated with dignity resonates in the modern world.
recognize that human beings have fundamental rights and privileges that transcend national boundaries and cultures. Rights establish a minimum level of morally acceptable behavior. One well-known definition of a fundamental right construes it as something that takes precedence over or "trumps" a collective good. Moral theorists argue that fundamental human rights form the basis for the moral compass that managers should navigate by when making decisions that have an ethical component. More precisely, they should not pursue actions that violate these rights.
focus on the attainment of a just distribution of economic goods and services. A just distribution is one that is considered fair and equitable. There is no one theory of justice, and several theories of justice conflict with each other in important ways. Here, we focus on one particular theory of justice that is both very influential and has important ethical implications. The theory is attributed to philosopher John Rawls. Rawls argues that all economic goods and services should be distributed equally except when an unequal distribution would work to everyone's advantage.
seven actions that an international business and its managers can take to make sure ethical issues are considered in business decisions:
(1) favor hiring and promoting people with a well-grounded sense of personal ethics; (2) build an organizational culture and exemplify leadership behaviors that place a high value on ethical behavior; (3) put decision-making processes in place that require people to consider the ethical dimension of business decisions; (4) institute ethical officers in the organization, (5) develop moral courage; (6) make corporate social responsibility a cornerstone of enterprise policy; and (7) pursue strategies that are sustainable.
organization culture and leadership
To foster ethical behavior, businesses need to build an organization culture that values ethical behavior. Three things are particularly important in building an organization culture that emphasizes ethical behavior. First, the businesses must explicitly articulate values that emphasize ethical behavior. Many companies now do this by drafting a code of ethics, which is a formal statement of the ethical priorities a business adheres to.
Often, the code of ethics draws heavily upon documents such as the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which itself is grounded in Kantian and rights-based theories of moral philosophy. Others have incorporated ethical statements into documents that articulate the values or mission of the business.
decision making process
In addition to establishing the right kind of ethical culture in an organization, businesspeople must be able to think through the ethical implications of decisions in a systematic way. To do this, they need a moral compass, and both rights theories and Rawls's theory of justice help provide such a compass. Beyond these theories, some experts on ethics have proposed a straightforward practical guide—or ethical algorithm—to determine whether a decision is ethical.39 According to these experts, a decision is acceptable on ethical grounds if a businessperson can answer yes to each of these questions:
•Does my decision fall within the accepted values or standards that typically apply in the organizational environment (as articulated in a code of ethics or some other corporate statement)?
To make sure that a business behaves in an ethical manner, firms now must have oversight by a high-ranking person or people known to respect legal and ethical standards. These individuals—often referred to as ethics officers—are responsible for managing their organizations ethics and legal compliance programs. They are typically responsible for
(1) assessing the needs and risks that an ethics program must address;
(2) developing and distributing a code of ethics;
(3) conducting training programs for employees;
(4) establishing and maintaining a confidential service to address employees' questions about issues that may be ethical or unethical;
(5) making sure that the organization is in compliance with government laws and regulations;
(6) monitoring and auditing ethical conduct;
(7) taking action, as appropriate, on possible violations; and
(8) reviewing and updating the code of ethics periodically
It is important to recognize that employees in an international business may need significant moral courage. Moral courage enables managers to walk away from a decision that is profitable but unethical. Moral courage gives an employee the strength to say no to a superior who instructs her to pursue actions that are unethical. Moral courage gives employees the integrity to go public to the media and blow the whistle on persistent unethical behavior in a company. Moral courage does not come easily; there are well-known cases where individuals have lost their jobs because they blew the whistle on corporate behaviors they thought unethical, telling the media about what was occurring.
United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights
The notion that there are fundamental rights that transcend national borders and cultures was the underlying motivation for the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted in 1948, which has been ratified by almost every country on the planet and lays down basic principles that should always be adhered to irrespective of the culture in which one is doing business.33 Echoing Kantian ethics, Article 1 of this declaration states:
All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.
theory of justice that is both very influential and has important ethical implications. The theory is attributed to philosopher John Rawls. Rawls argues that all economic goods and services should be distributed equally except when an unequal distribution would work to everyone's advantage.
code of ethics
the code of ethics draws heavily upon documents such as the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which itself is grounded in Kantian and rights-based theories of moral philosophy.
both rights theories and Rawls's theory of justice help provide such a compass
five step process
In step 1, businesspeople should identify which stakeholders a decision would affect and in what ways.
Corporate Social Responsibility
The concept of corporate social responsibility (CSR)
refers to the idea that businesspeople should consider the social consequences of economic actions when making business decisions and that there should be a presumption in favor of decisions that have both good economic and social consequences.50 In its purest form, corporate social responsibility can be supported for its own sake simply because it is the right way for a business to behave. Advocates of this approach argue that businesses, particularly large successful businesses, need to recognize their noblesse oblige and give something back to the societies that have made their success possible. Noblesse oblige is a French term that refers to honorable and benevolent behavior considered the responsibility of people of high (noble) birth. In a business setting, it is taken to mean benevolent behavior that is the responsibility of successful enterprises. This has long been recognized by many businesspeople, resulting in a substantial and venerable history of corporate giving to society, with businesses making social investments designed to enhance the welfare of the communities in which they operate.
The core idea of sustainability is that the organization—through its actions—does not exert a negative impact upon the ability of future generations to meet their own economic needs and that its actions impart long-run economic and social benefits on stakeholders.
give something back to the societies that have made their success possible. Noblesse oblige is a French term that refers to honorable and benevolent behavior considered the responsibility of people of high (noble) birth. In a business setting, it is taken to mean benevolent behavior that is the responsibility of successful enterprises.
As managers in international businesses strive to translate ideas about corporate social responsibility into strategic actions, many are gravitating toward strategies that are viewed as sustainable. By sustainable strategies
, we mean strategies that not only help the multinational firm make good profits, but that also do so without harming the environment while simultaneously ensuring that the corporation acts in a socially responsible manner with regard to its stakeholders.
International businesses that pursue sustainable strategies try to ensure that they do not precipitate or participate in a situation that results in a tragedy of the commons.
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