Values in tension

These contextual ambiguities effectively demonstrate the difficulty in arguing a favour of a given ethical position adopted by companies that are confronted with the dilemma of choosing between absolutist and relativist approaches to business ethics.

Although the action of the manager in reporting a case of theft to the authorities was in line with the instituted values and standards that the company upholds in its US operations, the subsequent execution of the culprit in line with extant Chinese legal standards is clearly at variance with the punishment that would have been meted out to the culprit for the same offense in the United States.

Also, such operating guidelines do not always so clearly spell out rigid terms of engagement in view of the need to incorporate cultural relativism in the overseas operations of a company. Accordingly, the gray zone associated with cross-cultural ethical ambiguities makes it quite problematic to conclusively determine that the approach adopted by Levi Strauss is the most ethical position, and that other companies who preferred other approaches in similar circumstances were less ethical in their behaviour.

And in an increasingly complex world, that means finding ways to identify and balance values in tension as we work together to create the future we dare to dream. In this case, the ambiguous boundaries or gray zone of ethical behaviour would make it well within the rights of such manager to argue that they have behaved ethically and in line with their corporate principles of not only forbidding the direct employment of child labourers, but also rejecting the use of child labourers by their suppliers.

We wanted to say out loud what we know to be true: Accordingly, Levi Strauss considered it unacceptable that — on the one hand, employing children precludes them from opportunities of basic education while on the other hand releasing such children from employment without alternative arrangements would render them too poor to feed or pay for education.

In appraising the arrangement put in place by Levi Strauss to balance the need to prevent the use of underage workers and the need to ensure that such children are not deprived of education and livelihoods as a consequence, it is clear that there is a sort of moral compass for business practice — established by the core values of the company.

For example, it is easy to agree that clean drinking water is a human right, but what kinds of delivery systems would ensure access to all while also insisting on efficiencies that allow us to use this scarce resource most effectively?

In so doing, they essentially recognize the inevitable cultural differences between their home country and the host country, and simply accept the prevailing situation see Donaldson and Dunfee,p.

In view of the foregoing, Thomas Donaldson addresses the complex matter of corporate values and business ethics on a cross country basis and establishes that although values and business ethics vary across countries, it is necessary for companies to firmly establish the ethical values that they uphold, and for such values to be replicated both home and abroad — in spite of the tensions between extant values in a cross-cultural context.

Although, in theory, one may reasonably acknowledge the inevitable relativism of cultures and the attendant relativism of ethical standards, it must also be acknowledged that in practice it is not ideal for companies to overlook clearly discriminatory, harmful and unfair practices in their host countries even where such practices are permitted.

Including student tips and advice. Related Introduction A classical dilemma that is associated with international business ethics is the tension between standards of behaviour that companies are used to in their main country of operations, and the different standards that exist in the foreign countries that host their overseas operations Singer, This framework enables us to be more proactive and nuanced in designing and supporting the right solutions for a messy world where the poor especially have been left out of too many opportunities.

The ambiguity of these core human values is what is not sufficiently emphasized by Donaldson. As demonstrated by Levi Strauss in its dealings with its suppliers in Bangladesh, it may be possible to successfully circumvent the difficulty posed by culture relativity by not only designing and implementing clear-cut conditions of engagement for suppliers and customers where applicablebut also importantly through the exercise of moral imagination and creativity.

Given that this practice was completely antithetical to the upheld corporate ethical values of Levi Strauss, the company chose to break off business relations with the Tan family after repeated warnings failed to dissuade them from the practice.

Even more specifically, how do we structure financial instruments that are generous and patient enough to enable entrepreneurs to experiment and fail, to discover what truly works for the poor, while also building in the needed accountability for success, both in terms of how the company operates and getting it market-ready to attract additional capital?

For instance, the decision of Levi Strauss to enter into a creative arrangement with its suppliers to discourage the use of under aged children as labourers and ensure their attendance of school may not be adopted by another company in a similar situation for a number of reasons.

According to the account, Levi Strauss reportedly discovered that two of its local suppliers in Bangladesh engaged in the practice of hiring children below the age of At Acumenwe recognize the same need in the world and in our daily work.

In view of the foregoing example, the need for a balancing act of sorts has been clearly recognized by Donaldson as being required to define the ethics of a company in cross-cultural business contexts. Yet, it may be rather subjective to conclusively declare that a company that takes this position would be acting in an unethical manner.

Our challenge now is to design better systems altogether to merge the best of market forces with a much larger commitment to building the kind of society in which all of us have a chance to thrive, to win, and -- always -- to contribute. As such, irrespective of the broad ethical positions espoused in such guidelines, the imperative of successful business operation and profitability might make it necessary for many companies to grant considerable latitude to managers to implement the ethical standards considered most appropriate in the context of a particular operating environment.

The way a company chooses to handle the ethical problems brought about by the actions of its suppliers and customers is therefore a reflection of its approach to the issue of standards of ethical values — absolutist or relativist. Indeed, certain inconsistencies may be identified in the contention of Donaldson pertaining to his espousal of the sort of absolutist approach to business ethics adopted by Levi Strauss.

Indeed Donaldson cites a number of examples of companies that successfully upheld absolute ethical standards for their operations both at home and abroad.

In choosing Values in tension approach to use in international business operations, managers must contend with the need to ensure some level of integrity in their business activities despite the often blurred and inconsistent standards of business ethics obtainable or permissible from country to country De George, This is due to the absence of clear-cut international standards of ethical business behaviour, and also due to the prevailing realities of different countries.

Levi Strauss is put forward by Donaldson as an outstanding example that companies can indeed find ways to implement absolute ethical standards that encompass the three principles of ethical behaviour earlier mentioned.

The answer to this question may be sought in examining the case of Levi Strauss in Bangladesh. I see a growing number of corporations, non-profits, governments and start-up companies asking themselves the hard questions about how to balance their short-term business issues with long-term institutional values, even when this does not yield easy answers.

I personally feel great optimism that we are embarking on a global path to more nuanced conversations. To be effective, we need to know how to be both accountable and generous, when to listen and when to lead, how to be audacious while practicing humility.

This therefore presents the inevitable question: These opposing values all rest on the foundation of respect and integrity, two immutable values for the work we do, where the absence of either undermines our very purpose.

It is for this reason that Donaldson contends that companies ought to be guided by three key principles in determining their ethical behaviour 1 respect for core human values which, according to Donaldson, is the basis for an absolute moral threshold for business activities2 respect for local traditions, and 3 the belief that context matters when deciding what is right and wrong.

Alternatively, certain other companies in similar situations as Levi Strauss may choose to simply instruct their suppliers to disengage the child labourers — without bearing any responsibility for the aftermath of such disengagement which would most likely further impoverish the children and their families while not making it easier for them to attend school.

Indeed, our very values reflect those contradictions. Overall, the conclusion of Donaldson to the effect that it is possible to create a global ethical perspective businesses and managers is quite plausible. He goes onto say that all enduring institutions -- and people -- must hold contradictory thoughts to function effectively.Scribd is the world's largest social reading and publishing site.

Values in Tension: Ethics Away from Home. Harvard Business Review, 74(5), In the article, Values in Tension: Ethics Away From Home, Thomas Donaldson questioned how leaders evaluate, consider and develop ethical leadership abroad.

Indeed, the dilemma or tension that may characterize companies’ values and ethics in international business settings is very clearly highlighted by one example cited by Donaldson pertaining to the lawful execution of a local employee of a US firm in China after he was caught stealing and subsequently reported to the authorities by his manager.

Values in Tension: Ethics Away from Home Thesis How a company should solve ethical issues while practicing business in another country 1. Cultural relativism: There are no international rights and wrong.

"Do as the locals do" 2.

Ethical imperialism: Act everywhere as you act at home. 3. Abolutism: There is a single list of truths.

Thinking About Values in Tension

Values in Tension: Ethics. Away From Home -Thomas Donaldson Presented By Shruti Mohite P39 Sanket Jadhav P33 Shradha Mahadik P Concept of Ethical Relativism • According to the school of ethical relativism.

However difficult they are to articulate, values affect how we all behave. In a global business environment, values in tension are the rule rather than the exception. Without a company’s .

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Values in tension
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