Ethical Standards at International Business Level

Ethical Standards at International Business Level

Over the decades stakeholders have been agitating for the organizations to be in front line in addressing some of the problems affecting the society. Ranging, from environment conservatives, governments, employees to communities, the pressure has been too high for the organization to accommodate. Majority of the stakeholders have argued that organization derive their charter of operation from the society and thus they should pay back through engaging in corporate social responsibility (Bichta, 2003, p. 14). Similarly, according to IsmaiL (2009, p. 202) companies contribute largely to the problems facing the society and therefore they should be part of solving those problems. For example, organization affect the society through pollution, excavation of the land which results to the dying of the vegetation. This is just a brief overview of how the organizations operations and activities are have harmful to the society and thus they should be part of solving the problems they cause. However, it is important to note that participation in the corporate social responsibility may not be the interest of the shareholders (Jensen, 2002, p. 238). From the shareholders point of view businesses are profit maximizing entities but not the social asset as perceived by some of the stakeholders. Whether to run business as a social asset or and to strictly adhere to profit maximizing objective it has been a challenge for many managers both domestically and globally (Secchi, 2007, p. 355). As the result managers are left in ethical dilemma in deciding which objective to pursue. This requires the managers to come up with the sound ethical standards that will ensure that the needs of the majority of the shareholders are satisfied. This is due to fact that majority of the international managers are faced with challenges of coming up with the appropriate ethical standards to apply while operating at the global arena. This paper aims to discuss, elaborate and provide recommendations on the most suitable ethical standards that international managers should apply: A PLAGIARIZED SAMPLEORDER YOUR PAPER NOW

Emerging Trends of Corporate Social Responsibility

Globalization of business operations have availed the company’s directors with strange, unknown, and non-contributory stakeholders other than the normal shareholders. Previous scenarios of organizations versus stakeholders conflicts have proved that in order for organizations to run successfully have to put into considerations the interests of all the stakeholders (Carroll & Shabana, 2010, p. 87).  To overcome this the company’s corporate boards have been paying greater attention to the interest of the stakeholders. Additionally, companies have come up with policies that have made corporate social responsibility the integral part of the company operations (Fontaine, 2013, p. 116). The above discussed aspects can be attributed to some of the emerging opinions among various stakeholders about the role of the business in the society.  Some of the major trends behind forces influencing the organizations to engage in the corporate social responsibility are as discussed in the following paragraphs.

The world Investment report (2012) advocates that there are over 200, 000 multinational companies operating globally (Gan, 2006, p. 225).  The rapid growth of the international companies have resulted to questioning of their impacts in the society. In return this has been evidenced by high demand by the stakeholders for the organizations to take responsibility on economic, environmental and social consequences of their actions. Alternatively, it has been argued that the organizations obtain their benefits from the society and thus should aim at improving environmental, economic and social welfare of the society even if they do not contribute to their damage. This may bring a challenge for an international manager on how to deal with the same if the ethical standards at his or her country states otherwise.

Over the last two decades the world has experienced the high profile financial misdeeds cases perpetuated by the corporate boards (Bantekas, 2009, p. 312). The most robust examples are that of WorldCom, Enron, Parmalat and others. This has contributed to loss of trust among the international companies corporate boards by the hot country shareholders.  To overcome this phenomenon the international manager has to ensure that the company is committed in ensuring sound financial management. Similarly, some global companies have been accused of practicing social and environmental irresponsibility. For example, Nike’s labor in the developing countries; the oil spills by Exxon in Prince William Sound in Alaska; marketing practices of baby formula brand by Nestle.  These scenarios have contributed to extensive scrutiny of the multinational corporations about the benefits they will accrue to the society. This situation encourages the international manager to adopt to the international ethical standards so that the company may finds its position in the society.

The emergence and pressure of the civil society activism has encouraged the stakeholders to demand more from the companies and other organizations (Smith, 2011, p. 22). Non-Governmental Organizations such as Fair Labor Association, Rainforest Action Network, Greenpeace, Amnesty International and Oxfam have largely influenced corporate decision making social responsibility. For example, they demanded that that the organization policies should be friendly to human rights; environmental protection should in the agenda of the companies; labor standards should be adhered to and society should have access to necessary medical care. Civil society is the core part of the society that exists between the government and the business and thus an international managers should ensure the applicable ethical standards do not contravene the opinion of the civil society.

From the emerging trends of the corporate social responsibility in the global arena it comes out quite clearly that the there are no particular ethical standards which should be applied in all the contexts. This gives an international manager a challenge to first scan and evaluate the environment before coming up with a decision which ethical standards to apply. The above trends gives a manager the fundamental basis which he or she can scan the global environment. Given that different nations adhere to different ethical standards, it is the responsibility of the manager to determine which ethical standards are more beneficial and acceptable. In the event where the domestic ethical standards seems to benefit the stakeholders more than the foreign standards, then the manager should go for the domestic ones. However, for them to be applicable the manager has to consider whether they are legal in that country: A PLAGIARIZED SAMPLEORDER YOUR PAPER NOW

                                         Home and Host Countries Ethical Standard Analysis

Generally, international companies and organizations play a critical role in promoting social welfare. However, all this depends whether the company is embracing the host country ethical standards or it has its own country ethical standards. It is fundamental to be aware that the different countries exhibit different cultural diversities. Therefore, it is the role of the international manager to study and determine whether adopting his own home ethical standards will be against the cultural norms and morals of the host country (Mohamad, 2010, p. 152). Additionally, there are ethical standards which are applicable globally and thus they should also be put into consideration. In case where the manager’s home country ethical standards are not applicable as well as those of the host country, the manager may decide to come up with the new ethical standards that will be legal as per host country governing laws and at the same time help in meeting the needs of all stakeholders.

Apart from host country culture and governing laws and employment standards also business code of ethics can be major challenges for the international businesses. For example, unethical practice that cannot be applicable in a particular country can be unethical practice for another country. This calls for an international company to position itself between both home and host countries ethical standards. This will enable the global company to survive in the host country’s market and industry.  For further and extensive discussion of ethical standards applicability by the international companies, this paper uses the examples Nestle and Exxon Mobil companies.

Example 1: Nestle Company Business Ethical Standards

Nestle is ranked as one of the world largest company dealing with fast moving consumer goods. The origin of Nestle can be traced in Switzerland in 1906 as a result of the merge of the two companies. The two companies that merged to form Nestle were Farine Lactée Henri Nestlé Company and Anglo-Swiss Milk Company. From then the company has been experiencing tremendous growth and expanding its operations in the global arena. However, in the period of a decade there has been widespread of information about the poor business ethics among many international companies including Nestle Company (Andrei, 2015). This has received a lot attention as well as criticisms among the stakeholders around the world. The main ethical issue which shed Nestle Company into light was as a result of endorsement of infant formula brand with unsafe and ambiguous strategies (Muller, 2013). Additionally, the company was accused of using suppliers who did not value human rights and the promotion of human health harmful food. (Mattera, 2014)

Unethical Marketing Practices of Artificial Infant Milk

The promotion of the artificial infant milk by the Nestle has received a lot of criticisms. This has not only been in the host country but also by the world at large. Many global organizations argued that the promotion was harmful and misleading (Smith, 2015). This is because the marketing was in contrast with the international symbols of marketing breast milk alternates.  The Nestle advertisement encouraged mothers across the globe to adopt bottle feeding instead of breast feeding. Besides, they provided the mothers with free sample in order to persuade them to adopt to their strategy. Alternatively, Nestle argued that mothers with twins lacks the ability to breastfeed and thus they should go for breastfeeding. The Nestle argument had no scientific proof as the international health organizations disputed due to lack of sufficient, reliable and relevant evidence (Babymilkaction.org, 2010).

Exploiting Farmers

This was another unethical practice that put Nestle Company into problems. The company used to purchase its coca from Ghana and Ivory Coast suppliers. The investigation carried out indicated that the majority of the workers in those cocoa plantations were underage (Smith, 2015). Despite, being young they worked approximately 80 to 100 hours per week and the compensation was not fair.  Upon the widespread of this information across the world, Nestle was largely criticized by labor and health organizations. The company had no other option other than to bow to the pressures of the international community (Mattera, 2014).

 Violation of the Employees’ Rights

Nestle has received a lot criticisms due to its disrespect to the workers’ rights. For example, in Colombia the accusation were intense where the company was accused of assassinating some of its employees because they were part of the labor union (Smith, 2015). In another scenario the company has been accused of threatening a work to disown the union or else he was to be fired.

Promotion of Unhealthy Food

In one of the recent reports, Nestle was criticized for promoting breakfast cereals which contained highest level of salt, sugar and fat (Andrei, 2015). Again, the company was also accused of failing to play its responsibility while promoting its products to the public.  As a result the company food lost reputation in some major parts in the world. This has costed the company heavily as it tried to make necessary changes in order to gain back public image.

Example 2: Exxon Mobil Company

Exxon Mobil Company is a global petrochemical corporation based in the United Sates. The Exxon Mobil company policy is to comply with will all states regulations, rules and laws applicable to its business. However, this contradicts some of the unethical standards that the company has been portraying in different scenarios (Mathew, 2015). The company came into fame when it spilled over eleven million gallons of crude along the coastline of Alaska. This was termed as one of the most unethical standard exercised by an international corporation (Carr, 2013). The company conformed to the pressure from the stakeholders and resulted in cleaning the whole mess it had caused. However, the report indicates the company carried inefficient cleaning and as result the effects of the oil spillage (Conrad, 2015).

It cannot be disputed that the companies exist to generate profit. However, they should ensure that they do not pursue the objective of the profit making to benefit the a few stakeholders at the expense of the other big percentage of the stakeholders.  The practice of the Exxon resulted to realization of higher profit margins but at the expense of other stakeholders including physical vegetation and animals. This led to expose of the company standard as unethical which negatively affected the company products and reputation.

 Exxon Mobil Human Resource Business Unethical Practices

The Exxon human resource has been accused by many for undertaking unethical business practices. The company employees have be criticized for ignoring children rights (Ashworth, 2015). Additionally, it has been found that the company help employees to cover up wrong misdeeds done against the students. Many human right activists have extended these accusations to the company itself despite holding the employees accountable. For example, in some of the scenarios the Exxon has been shielding oversea employees who have been causing harm as well as displacement of the children left behind. Those who oppose these acts argue that there are established court procedures and policies that can help the employees to pursue other opportunities without necessarily affecting their children. However, the Exxon practices seems to contradict with legal rules and thus resulting to conflict from the concerned stakeholders.

Reference Examples Analysis

Upon analyzing the above two examples it comes out evidently that there might be no appropriate ethical standards to be applied in all situations. Neither the home country ethical standards nor the host country ethical standards can be adopted fully as the appropriate. Therefore, an international manager requires to examine both the foreign and domestic ethical standards and pick the ones which suits best for the host country. Additionally, where the ethical standards gap exists the manager can come up with the new ethical standards as per the legal rules, state governing laws and cultural practice exhibited in the host country. This paper holds that there are no fixed ethical standards either be the home country ones or those the host country. Therefore, the paper offers various recommendations that an international manager should adhere adopt.

Addressing Ethical Standards Differences in International Business

According to Godiwalla (2012, p. 1382) ethical decision making among the international businesses is more challenging than in domestic operations. Culture based codes differ in different countries making it difficult for the managers to adopt to different ethical codes in different markets (Spence, 2007, p. 542). In most of the times the manager finds himself in ethical dilemma in deciding whether to act of the ethics which are unacceptable in his or her home country and essential and expected in the host country. To address, international managers have to be equipped with skills and knowledge on how to address standards differences in the expressed in the different parts of the world (Saunders & Thorne, 2012, p. 7). This paper offers various approaches that the international managers can adopt to address these differences.

 Designing code of ethics for each international market arena:

Keeping of the unique ethical atmosphere for each international market will ensure that the company uses the ethical standards relevant to the environment of each market (Pitta , et al., 2009, p. 246). However, the establishment of these ethical codes without proper will be futile and they may fail to work. Therefore, to make the ethical standards effective, managers and other company top executive employees should make them their priority in order to set an example for other stakeholders of the organization to emulate. To make this applicable the international manager can avail the ethical codes at foreign subsidiaries, branch offices and high traffic areas at the home office. Additionally, the international managers should strive to justify the new ethical codes in order for other stakeholders to take them seriously.  According to Mujtaba & Cavico (2013, p. 62) it is very crucial to involve the host country employees establishing the ethical standards. This helps to make the codes of the ethics more reliable in the new foreign markets.

Consideration of Host Country Traditions and Customs:

To avoid conflicts with host country stakeholders the international manager should carry out the analysis of the locals’ traditions and customs (Barton, 2011, p. 86).  This will help him or her in adopting the suitable code of ethics while addressing such issues such as deforestation, child labor, environmental issues such as humanitarian conflicts. On other side, it help the manager to apply his or her discretion when dealing with matters concerning wages considerations and bribery. For example, the manager can use his judgement whereby he may opt for giving cash gifts to government officials where the entry to the market is denied. Alternatively, the manager may decide to avoid the entry of the market whereby the required law materials are provided by the supplier who practices unethical standards: A PLAGIARIZED SAMPLEORDER YOUR PAPER NOW

Apply the ethical codes consistently, equally and among all the stakeholders:

Provided that the ethical standards do not conflicts with the legal system, culture and employment provisions of the host country, the international manager should stock the established ethical standards. However, if there are home country ethical standard governed by a particular policy then the manager should be ready to turn down the opportunities in the home country that seems to violate that policy. Even if the manager is to reject the opportunity he has to do it at a courteous and a respectful manner. This helps to express the respect of the host country established ethical standards. Additionally, when the manager is turning down unethical opportunities he should act as if he superior but to simply explain that by agreeing to the opportunity will lead to violation of the company ethical standards. This will ensure that the company maintains good relationship with the stakeholders for future opportunities. However, an international manager should note that if he accepts to put into consideration the host country customs when coming up with ethical standards, he should not overlook the host country due to the differences in his home country. This should be followed by making sure that all the company managers and employees understands the manager commitment to ethical standards.


From the evaluation of ethical standards applicable to the international business there is no fixed ethical standards. Businesses environment differ from one part of the globe to another and likewise business code of ethics. Therefore, the progressive international managers should neither strictly dwell on the home country ethical standards nor the host country ethical standards. However, they should borrow some aspects from both home and host counties business code of ethics. Alternatively, they should design new ethical codes that will ensure they are relevant to the given market as well as to the company policies. To make this effective the manager should make ethical standards a daily training for the new hires. This should be directed to the areas of concern where they should be highly practiced.


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