This is “International Considerations”, section 3.4 from the book Finance for Managers (v. 0.1).
This book is licensed under a Creative Commons by-nc-sa 3.0 license. See the license for more details, but that basically means you can share this book as long as you credit the author (but see below), don't make money from it, and do make it available to everyone else under the same terms.
This content was accessible as of December 29, 2012, and it was downloaded then by Andy Schmitz in an effort to preserve the availability of this book.
Normally, the author and publisher would be credited here. However, the publisher has asked for the customary Creative Commons attribution to the original publisher, authors, title, and book URI to be removed. Additionally, per the publisher's request, their name has been removed in some passages. More information is available on this project's attribution page.
For more information on the source of this book, or why it is available for free, please see the project's home page. You can browse or download additional books there. You may also download a PDF copy of this book (2 MB) or just this chapter (88 KB), suitable for printing or most e-readers, or a .zip file containing this book's HTML files (for use in a web browser offline).
PLEASE NOTE: This book is currently in draft form; material is not final.
As companies extend their reach across internation boundaries, ethical issues have taken a more prominent position in discourse about the benefit of globalization. Nowhere can the legal vs. ethical divide be more pronounced than when considering international prospects, for what is legal in one jurisdiciton might be illegal in another. As different cultures attempt to work together, different values can emerge on topics such as: fair wages, working hours, child labor, environmental impact, facilitating payments, discrimination in hiring or customer base, etc. Futhermore, companies might make decisions upon where to locate their workforce based upon taxation, labor costs, or regulations.
Being sensitive to cultural differences is a good skill to foster, as attempting to understand the viewpoint of another party can allow for greater collaboration and increased opportunities. Being open to new views and ideas, however, is very different from accepting everything as relative. Many an executive has tried to explain away unethical behavior as “that’s just the way they do business there.” While this might be a completely true statement, this fact alone does not give a company justification for violating ethical principles. Another common trope is “if we left, another company would come in that is even worse.” Choosing the best from among bad options is one thing, whereas it is very hard to support a decision on the grounds of merely being “less unethical”.