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Philosophy 2074F/G
Michael Herbert

ETHICAL ISSUESIN INTERNATIONAL BUSINESS  Most firms realize that competitors for their market share could come from any corner of the globe. Even fairly small regional firms often attempt to market their products internationally  Global financial markets are tied to one another in such a way that widespread fraud in the US markets, for example, has a direct impact on Asian and European markets  Consumers in developed countries have become increasingly aware of the sweatshop conditions under which some of the goods they purchase are manufactured and assembled  The home country of a business firm is where it has its headquarters or where it has its charters of incorporation. A host country is any other country where that firm does business  Multinational corporation has four options  1. Follow the norms of the home country because that is the patriotic thing to do  2. Follow the norms of the host country to show proper respect for the host country’s culture  3. Follow whichever norm is the most profitable  4. Follow whichever norm is morally best (the four alternatives are not mutually exclusive)  The US itself is engaged in a voluntary cooperative project to improve the social responsibility of corporations  Corporations many participate in the Global Reporting Initiative whereby corporations report on their progress in adopting and implementing the 10 principles  In the human rights area, a group of energy companies and human rights organizations have adopted a set of voluntary guidelines for respecting human rights while protecting overseas operations  Sometimes corporations are seen as wittingly or unwittingly supporting governments in human rights abuses  Corporations ought to accept the moral norms that make society and hence, business itself possible. This argument is a powerful argument against the view known as ethical relativism. Ethical relativism holds that whatever a country says is right or wrong for a country, really is right or wrong for that country. But if there are ethical norms that must be adopted if a country is to exist at all, then obviously the rightness of these norms is not justified by being endorsed in any particular country  Bowie refers to these norms as the morality of the marketplace  If certain moral rules or traits such as truth telling or honesty give a multinational corporation a competitive advantage then eventually these moral norms or traits will be adopted by multinationals, because those that do not will not survive  There are three ways to honor human rights  1. To avoid depriving  2. To help protect from deprivation and  3. To aid the deprived  Donaldson maintains that while human rights should be honored in all three senses, it is not clear that it is the obligation of business to honor all human rights in all three ways  Distinguishes between human rights and legal rights, pointing out that human rights are not contingent upon the existence of particular legal institutions  The claim that there are universal human rights or moral norms that should be followed by all multinationals is not inconsistent with the idea that there is a wide range of situations where variations in conduct are permissible  The government of Myanmar supplied labor to Unocal that the plaintiffs claimed was forced labor or slavery  Foreign suppliers to such companies have been accused of operating sweatshops and the companies have been accused of complicity with human rights violations  Apple has recently announced that it will implement new labour standards and third party verification  Monitoring is not limited to individual companies  Not everyone is so quick to condemn the practices of multinational in this area  He argues that corporate executives should explain to activists and others that improving working conditions will be bad for workers and bad for developing economies, since it will slow economic goals  They use Kantian arguments to show that multinational enterprises have a moral obligation to ensure that their suppliers follow local labour laws, refrain from coercion, meet minimum safety standards and provide a living wage for employees  One emerging international norm is a prohibition against bribery  Other countries operate under no such restrictions  That criticism is that the act does not adequately distinguish among gift giving, facilitating payments, bribery and extortion  The law doens’t sufficiently distinguish between bribery and extortion  The difference between extortion and facilitating payment is one of degree, it is also often difficult to distinguish a gift from a bribe  Globalization and the increase in international business competition it bring forth continue to spark a number of debates in international business ethics  The effort to be an ethical and profitable business at home becomes even more complicates when a business enters the international arena RELATIVISM AND THE MORAL OBLIGATION OF MNCS – BOWIE  Moral relativism is the claim that what is really right or wrong is what the culture says is right or wrong  The implication of moral relativism for conduct is that one ought to abide by the ethical norms of the culture where one is located  Social scientists believe that cultural relativism is true as a matter of fact  Even if there were universal moral principles, they would have to be applied in these different cultural contexts  Hence we expect to find surface differences in ethical behavior among cultures even though the cultures agree on fundamental universal moral principles  Show that differences among cultures on ethical behavior may not reflect genuine disagreement about underlying principles of ethics  Even in business there is a growing effort to adopt universal principles of business practices  Thus there are a number of reasons to think that cultural relativism, at least with respect to basic moral principles, is not true, that is, that it does not accurately describe the state of moral agreement that exists  Philosophers, by and large, welcomes corrections of moral imperialists but recognized that the moral relativists appeal to the alleged truth of cultural relativism was not enough to establish moral relativism  Thinking something is morally permissible does not make it so  Since moral relativism is the view that what is right or wrong is determined by culture, there is no higher appeal beyond the fact that culture endorses the moral principle  So moral relativism is not consistent with our use of moral language  Relativism is also inconsistent with how we use the term moral reformist  A moral reformer would almost certainly appeal to universal moral principles to make her argument: she almost certainly would not appeal to a competing cultural standard  The relativist could suggest that we can change our ethical language in the same way. But consider how radical the relativists response is  If there are no universal moral principles, moral relativists could argue that moral relativism is the only theory available to help make sense of moral phenomena  There is a tendency to equate cultures with national boundaries but that is naive, especially today  Moral relativists have had little to say regarding criteria for constituting a culture or how to account for dissidents  If the moral relativist insists that the truth of every moral principle depends on the culture, then she must admit that the truth of moral relativism depends on the culture  If such behavior is not permitted, that counts as a reason for saying that there is only one tribe. The underlying assumption here is that there is a set of moral principles that must be followed if there is to be a culture at all. With respect to those moral principles, adhering to them determines whether there is a culture or not  Given that the norms constituting a moral minimum are likely to be few in number, it can be argued that the argument thus far has achieved something – that is,
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