With the advent of the Internet, everything from personal relationships to business has become ‘global’ for all intents and purposes. Today, you can talk to people all over the world as easily as if you were talking to your next door neighbor. Businesses can exchange documents of all kinds with the push of a button, without having to wait days and often weeks for those documents to be hand delivered. We are global, and this has had a profound effect on the area of business ethics.
What we must realize is that what may be considered ethical in our own country is not necessarily so in another country. This often makes conducting global business quite difficult. At one point when we didn’t have the internet, it was more a matter of not accidentally disrespecting others’ customs and traditions. However, today, much more is at stake. You should also not trample on the code of ethics of other companies, or countries, while staying true to the code of ethics of your own company or country.
The first step is to understand the business traditions and customs of the country in which the company you are dealing with resides. Hopefully they will do the same for you, going out of their way to learn about your trading traditions and customs. Next, you need a way to communicate clearly. In this area of the global market, hiring the services of a talented translator is essential. You need to clearly know what they are saying, and they also need to know what you are saying. Don’t rely on your semester of a high school foreign language to get you through this.
Global businesses also have a profound effect on their employees. For example, if you do business with a foreign country that only maintains regular business hours, in your time zone, one or more of your employees will need to be available for phone calls and such, when it is convenient for the foreign company. Do you expect your employees to be in the office for those calls or conference calls at midnight, and expect them to be there early the next morning? That is not very ethical.
Another area that has become a growing concern when it comes to global business and ethics is the declaration of income from foreign countries. If your company makes a sale to a company in Canada, for example, that sale will not be reported to the IRS in the United States by the company you made the sale to or the Canadian government. It is not, by anyone’s standards, ethical not to report that income to the IRS yourself.
In many countries, bribing officials is part of doing business. However, this does not make the practice ethical, and experts advise business owners to instruct all of their employees that such practices will not be tolerated when doing business globally, or even when doing business in their own country.
Global business is seemingly easy with the use of the Internet, but in the grand scheme of things, when you start to see what is and is not acceptable or expected in a foreign country, in terms of ethical business practices, one should use a lot of precautionary