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An American Executive in Columbia - Global Ethics

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Essay title: An American Executive in Columbia - Global Ethics

Ethics Paper

An American Executive in Columbia pays off a drug lord so that his factory is not bombed and his workers killed. An American firm bribes officials in a small town in Mexico to let them dump their toxic waste in their local landfill. These are two clear cut examples of what is right and wrong in regards to ethical issues in the ever emerging global market. (Integrity, on a global scale) Nonetheless issues such as these have to be attended to and dealt with in the real world every day by Western businesses competing in the global economy. Sometimes it may be difficult to see the line between what a good business strategy is, and what is ethical. However it is the responsibility of Western corporations not to follow the norms of the countries they are located in that are deemed as unethical back home. Problems such as bribery, labor practices, culture clashing, and pollution have spurned businesses going global for years. It is the responsibility of corporations competing in the global market to raise standards not only within the company itself, but also in the country in which it is located.

One may argue that a business has no right to try to impose upon a country its own values or principals. Imagine a Western corporation that entered a Middle Eastern country and attempted to broadcast its ideas on TV about how the Western culture was much better than that of their own. The result would be apocalyptic at best for the future of that company. Rather look back to 1995 when Shell suffered a huge blow to its reputation. Shell had extensive operations in Nigeria. That year a human-rights activist Ken Saro-Wiwa was to be executed and Shell did not raise its voice for any opposition. After this incident, Shell rewrote its book on business principals and how to establish better relationships with the countries it inhabits. (Doing Well by Doing Good) The strange thing is that Shell made this change completely on its own. There was nothing legally wrong with Shell not speaking up or doing anything. Shell was not facing any serious financial troubles from their actions either because people are still going to buy gasoline. Robin Aram who was in charge of Shell’s policy development said they felt that in the long-run actions like these are taken into consideration from investors. He also said that people seem happier working for organizations they regard as ethical. (Doing Well by Doing Good)

The Foreign Corrupt Practices Act of 1977 prohibits American companies from paying bribes to foreign officials or political parties. However, different countries have different standards. “Giving someone a $300 or $400 gift in Japan is going to be viewed differently than here in the US.” Lee Essrig, the director of global initiatives of the Ethics Officers Association. “What’s acceptable in the US is very different from what might be acceptable in Japan, for example, and executives and others need to understand that.” (Integrity, on a global scale) This is very true in many facets of business which includes bribery. In some countries in Asia bribery to officials is so accepted, it has become the norm. What is known as “greasing the wheel” occurs in these countries. This is when small payments have to be made to officials in order for them to even consider processing your paperwork. This has occurred for so long that it is the only way of considering doing business there. This is one challenging area for corporations. Refusal of payment of these bribes may prove difficult, but it is the first step towards righting an implanted wrong.

Ethics for a business should not be only focused on international practices alone, but rather in the mission of the company itself for very obvious reasons. As stated before, people seem to like working for a company that they believe to be ethical. But there are some very obvious reasons why a company must be ethical in order to survive in the business world today.

There are obvious cases that can be seen in the past few years that show the disadvantages to not engraining ethics into the strategic mission or even the daily practices of a company.

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