Business Ethics:

Global Ethics

by Trish Overby

Several months ago, an international group of retired political leaders, including Jimmy Carter and Helmut Schmidt, met at UN headquarters to discuss the possibilities of a 'Universal Declaration of Human Responsibilities'. This discussion was based not only on a discussion of human rights but also coming to some agreement on world wide moral standards.

The UN organization has always been an advocate for bringing people from around the world together in order to discuss issues that have a global impact. Now, because of Internet technology and communications, the world seems smaller and smaller.

A person in Mid-West America can communicate and do business with someone half way around the world from them. All that stands in their way, besides different time zones, is an understanding of the cultural and moral attitudes of their new business colleague. Hopefully, this UN declaration will help both parties come to not only a cultural understanding but one which respects each other's ethical principles.

Similarities Not Differences

The UN meeting emphasized the similarities and parallels of world cultures rather than the differences and historical resentments. There was a desire to bring everyone to a consensus on moral issues which face the world as a whole and therefore, the individual world citizen. Of course, this agreement will take some time to finalize. Some of the problems are related to 20th century philosophies which need creative discussion and solutions.

One such ideal is readily seen in the industrial societies. We are experiencing a rapid decline in moral standards. It appears the 'market forces' are driving morality to the back seat in order to produce and sell more products around the world.

Business takes on a momentum which overrides what society sees is right. The tobacco industry has for years emphasized the glamour and advantages of cigarette smoking. Within the last 30-40 years, the disadvantages of smoking have been publicized in the Western countries. However, the tobacco companies have strongly promoted cigarettes in the developing countries. The market has switched countries but the injuries to health are the same.

Moral Relativism

Another philosophy addressed by the UN delegation is moral relativism. A distinction between right and wrong for one person is not always the same for another person. The attitude of 'anything goes' is prevelant in American culture. This brings about an attitude of tolerance which denies a singular sense of morality. What my brother citizen does is OK, it may or may not be according to my ethics but after all it is his conscience. Well, it very well is his conscience but it also brings a sense of lawlessness into society. Everyone is doing what is right in his own eyes. It is tolerated because we are not making any ethical demands or rules for anyone but ourselves. We are not committing our well being to anyone's care but ourselves. After all, we must know what is best for ourselves, don't we?

As trade barriers continue to disappear around the world, the need grows for 'universal' standards which save face in the east and keep clear consciences in the west. All humans are both lonely beings and social animals. But more importantly, we are ethical beings. We need now more than ever to know what is right as the rapid changes to our societies and businesses take place. We need some sort of ethical guidance.

This need is common to us all because we were created by One person. This Creator did not leave us to fend for ourselves in this world he created. He knows all about our similarities and differences culturally. He doesn't make a big deal about the differences. Instead, he sees our similarities as his created beings. Such as, our need for love, our need for hope and our need for guidance in an ever changing world. His one desire is for us to look to Him for the guidance we all need.

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