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Global Ethics in the Face of Increasing Globalization

The etymology of the expression "When in Rome, do as the Romans do" offers multiple variations and interpretations, as does a converse but more contemporary form of the phrase - "When in Rome, do as you would at home." Consideration of both articulations provides the opportunity for an interesting study of a future framework for conducting international business in an ever increasing environment of globalization. In particular, the ethical The purpose of this

principles comprising such a framework deserve considerable focus.

brief paper is to first analyze John R. Boatright's view of both the culturally relativistic and ethically imperialistic aspects of the "When in Rome . . . " statements as "inadequate attitudes," and then explore an alternative and superior approach to completing this idiom. Whether to "do as the Romans do" or "do as you do at home" while in Rome can be viewed as a choice between cultural relativism and ethical imperialism. Following the former path is to follow "the cultural relativist's creed." (Donaldson, 1996) Cultural relativism holds that there is an equality between cross cultural ethics that cannot be challenged. bribery of public officials in Indonesia may be accepted while it is abhorred in Singapore, yet the cultural relativist sees no problem under either scenario as both attitudes are equally permissible. In Donaldson's view, "the other end of the spectrum from cultural relativism is ethical imperialism, which directs people to do everywhere exactly as they do at home." In stark contrast to the cultural relativist, the ethical imperialist For instance,

attempts to apply rigid consistency in the application of ethical principles. Boatright and Donaldson share the view that both approaches are woefully inadequate when applied to the conduct of business across international borders. Further, both men seem to agree that both views are embodied by the two forms of the "When in Rome . . . " idiom. Boatright

expresses the root cause for his belief in the inadequacy of both attitudes on page 419 of the

His addition of an "Interconnection Type. it is also clear that the development of a framework for conducting international business is a daunting task. the key lies in three principles: 1." and therefore represents an imperfect approach to forming acceptable and ethical business behavior abroad. Boatright. One such view is that of Georges Enderle that offers a typology of four different global ethical views. 443) While it is clear that both adages offering suggestions for conduct "When in Rome" are inadequate.text. seems to merely introduce. briefly discuss.) respect for core human values." which seeks to blend and connect nations into regional coalitions." In Boatright's view. While Boatright and Donaldson agree on the inadequacies of relativism and absolutism. For Donaldson. Boatright's criticism of Donaldson's proposed rights based principles seems harsh in light of his own lack of elaboration on a meaningful. they hold divergent views on the principles or rules that multinational corporations should abide by. "Neither of these positions can be adopted without exception. and conclude that there is the need for "the development of international agreements and codes of ethics. Enderle's "Foreign Country Type" is representative of the relativist view. The failure of either relativism or absolutism to grant exceptions based on contextual circumstances in a cross cultural environment is clearly a fatal flaw shared by both views. He views Donaldson's rights based principles as lacking clarity and as being inapplicable to a majority of the complex ethical challenges facing international decision makers. In fact. when speaking of the relativist and absolutist forms of the phrase he states that. practical solution. there are several approaches in existence that attempt to remedy this shortcoming of the two extremes. 2. and 3.) contextual relevance in ethical decision making.) respect for local traditions. while his "Empire Type" comports to the absolutist approach. offers an expansion . neither mindset is "wholly justified. However. Boatright's divergence exists on two levels." (p.

natural . Contributions such as Enderle's typology and the ISCT model of Donaldson and Dunfee that seek to navigate between the extremes of relativism and absolutism could best be summarized by changing the adage to "When in Rome.beyond the rigidity of relativism and absolutism. The European Union provides perhaps the best illustration of this type. where the allowance for exceptions was nonexistent. To the contrary. The ISCT model strives to strike a balance between adherence to hypernorms and the avoidance of moral free space in the ultimate goal of achieving a global ethical framework for decision making in the conduct of international business. and are therefore desirable as normative guides to international business decision making. Enderle's typology attempts to offer two additional global types in order to alleviate the difficulty global ethical decision makers experienced under the rigidity of the relativist and absolutist models. this model employs the concepts of hypernorms and moral free space in an attempt to achieve balance in the conduct of international business. strike a globally sensitive ethical balance. Developed by Donaldson in collaboration with Thomas Dunfee. Under ISCT. and most likely to be accepted by the global business community. But it is Enderle's "Global Type" that lies at an extreme of his typology and seeks to synthesize ethical principles that would be best representative. moral free space in the ISCT model is where inconsistent principles and values that conflict with the broadly accepted norms are found. Another alternative tool developed for use by global business decision makers in order to meet the challenges presented by cross cultural conflicts is Integrative Social Contracts Theory (ISCT)." It would seem that any development efforts toward a global ethics framework for conducting international business would draw its principles from the three ethical theories that have had the greatest influence on moral philosophy in the last three centuries -.utilitarianism. hypernorms represent those ethical principles and values that transcend a broad range of cultures.

In the exploration of whether agreement on a global ethic is even attainable. corrupt practices such as bribery is a significant cause of global poverty and underdevelopment. Another Kantian argument contained in Küng's Declaration is that of respect for persons. religion and everyday life. 433) Bribery and other forms of corruption are therefore a key threat to the principle of humanity that is essential for the success of a global ethic. Or in positive terms: What you wish done to yourself. and as Boatright points out. and are not involved in the majority of critical moral issues faced in international business. 440) Further review of Dr. As Boatright points out. Rather. Kant's reflection of the Christian concept of the Golden Rule can be seen in the following text from the Declaration: " There is a principle which is found and has persisted in many religious and ethical traditions of humankind for thousands of years: What you do not wish done to yourself. do to others!" Such a principle is essential to success in achieving a global ethics framework. Boatright cites theologian Hans Küng as observing that globalization itself calls for the "globalization of ethics. Küng's work at The Global Ethics Foundation reveals a significant body of work devoted toward achieving a global ethic. The principle of humanity should be a key component of any global ethical framework. Indeed. Indeed. Embedded in Küng's work entitled. 423). "Declaration Toward a Global Ethic" are principles quite similar to those espoused by Immanuel Kant. Bribery undermines economic efficiency and inevitably leads to lowered standards of living. not just in international business but in politics. do not do to others. the historical development efforts surrounding a global framework for ethics in international business have included principles drawn from these three philosophies." (p. and Kantianism.rights theory. even threatening minimal . (p. fundamental human rights such as those that Donaldson sets forth are merely "minimal conditions for ethical behavior" (p. the focus is more on abuses of power by multinational corporations.

For instance. When empowered and supported by strong ethical codes and guidelines. it is the ambiguity presented by these very situations that creates the most challenging problems. multinational corporations may face pressure to pay bribes or other "fees" in order to retain access to vital resources in those countries. Despite the need for flexibility in the exercise of judgment where cultural sensitivity is required. A solution to this might be for the multinational corporations under such pressure to partner with local governments to provide the same level of expenditure toward education. Respect for these principles lends itself to the formation of strong codes of conduct that clearly outline ethical courses of action in environments where bribery is prevalent. salary and benefits for those children. But specific procedures for handling situations susceptible to the offering or acceptance of bribes must be coupled with the flexibility for international business managers to exercise judgment in culturally sensitive situations. multinational corporations are better positioned to firmly resist bribery and corruption rather than simply conceding to it . Adherence to these principles allows for unambiguous language in codes of conduct that offer clear direction in challenging circumstances. a decision making framework involving even top management is essential to solve these problems.standards of living and the basic human right thereof. while at the same time avoiding such corrupt payments. forms of bribery are intolerable. and it is for this Even the most basic and common reason that the Kantian categorical imperative and the principle of humanity are most important to multinational companies operating abroad and amidst bribery. Companies that hold the value of respect for people constant while never compromising integrity will stand the best chance of navigating the ethical maze that some corrupt foreign environments present. In cases such as these. in countries where child labor is accepted at the expense of basic minimal levels of education.

Ethics and the Conduct of Business (6th ed. "Managing ethically with global stakeholder: A present and future challenge. only 47 are nation states. R. T. but remains a daunting challenge.. A. NJ: Pearson Education. J. Hans Küng's call for and pursuit of a global ethic in the face of such rapid globalization is a laudable crusade. 18." Academy of Management Executive. September -October 1996. Inc. but vast socioeconomic disparity remains a daunting challenge.B.2004. This underscores the increasing levels of responsibility facing multinational corporations in a world of ever increasing globalization. Progress toward a global ethics framework has been significant. Of the 100 largest global economies. 416-418. 48-62. No.2. Donaldson. References the path of least resistance. pp. pp. pp 114-119.Vol. (2009). . "World View: When is different just different. and when is different wrong?" Harvard Business Review. Business Ethics.): International Upper Saddle River. Carroll.