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April 10, 2002
OSWEGO -- Having an international set of business ethics is a worthy effort, but it's easier said than done. That's the thought behind a Quest presentation by three graduate business students at SUNY Oswego on April 24.
Bob Hageny, Cheryl Greer and Greg Molloy will explore the issue during their Quest presentation "International Business: The Development of a Universal Set of Ethical Standards," starting at 12:30 p.m. in Room 104 of Lanigan Hall. Their presentation dovetails with the MBA "International Business" class taught by Stephen Luxmore, assistant professor of marketing and management.
"We thought business ethics was an important topic based on things going on in the world today," Hageny said. "We found a lot of examples showing why we need an international standard."
International business ethics issues covered include corruption, money laundering, trafficking and bribery. "A lot of countries accept bribery as a way of doing business," Hageny said. "For many cultures, they've always done things this way, and they don't conceive it as being wrong."
Other issues include using child labor, providing inhumane working conditions and mistreating women workers. "A lot of the problems stem from companies concentrating on having labor that is cheap," Hageny said.
Often it requires tragic incidents to gain attention, he said. "Kader Toy Co. in Bangkok had hundreds of workers locked in a toy factory when a small fire broke out," he said. The company makes toys for Disney, among others. "The sprinklers were inadequate, there were structural deficiencies and other problems, and 200 were killed and 450 injured. This is the kind of thing that opens people's eyes."
Hageny said that there are watchdog groups like Greenpeace, Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International actively trying to improve things. "What these groups do is investigate countries and go to the media to tell the whole world about what they find," Hageny said. He notes that investigations by Human Rights Watch, among others, exposed sweatshop conditions in factories of corporate giant Nike, and "it forced Nike to do something about it."
Nonetheless, economic conditions make developing an ethical standard difficult, he said. "When there's an environmental issue, sometimes corporations look at closing a plant and relocating to another country with less strict laws as a cheaper alternative to fixing the problem," Hageny said. "So the workers are the ones who ultimately pay the price. They may be working for a dollar a day, which is deplorable, but for them it's better than not working."
Improvements start with companies looking inward at their internal cultures and developing their own codes of ethics and rules, the students found. This includes respecting employees, local cultures and governments, and environmental factors, Hageny said.
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