chapter  6
36 Pages

The effect of culture on business ethics

WithPHILIPPE D’IRIBARNE

Business ethics have emerged as a critical crossroads where the ‘universal’ and the ‘local’ intersect. Increasingly, multinational fi rms try to create a common culture and spirit to unite far-fl ung subsidiaries. Such fi rms create documents – codes of business ethics, conduct and professional practice – to give their employees guidelines and to demonstrate their leaders’ principles. They set up ways to compel (greater or lesser) obedience to these guidelines, such as ethics training sessions and monitoring or enforcement tools. These codes cover many of the fi rms’ everyday efforts to fi ght corruption, respect the rights of employees and promote social responsibility. However, as Herder ( 2000 ) noted in connection with religions, every universal message embodies a variety of local interpretations. This variety of constructs – in ways of being, values and customs – strongly infl uences ethics. 1 It affects behavior considered morally acceptable (or not), actions arising from a sense of duty, types of control considered legitimate, or even the very legitimacy of fi rms addressing ethics at all.