Local markets are anachronisms. Today’s companies are global regardless of where main operations are located. This exposes companies to sensitive ethical quandaries, and if there is to be global growth and prosperity, there is great need for a global code of corporate conduct. Companies need to learn that it is possible to be a good global corporate citizen and also be highly profitable. And the lesson must begin at home.
Running a foreign operation from a distance can be like driving a speeding car down a busy highway from the back seat using only one’s knees. Distance, language and perpetually altering conditions generate a constant flow of problems, which have the potential to multiply as the number of countries in which a business operates grows and both type and level of operations become more complicated. This, combined with a lack of first-hand information, yields fertile ground for costly mistakes—both operational and ethical.
While operational mistakes can be damaging, they are usually fixable. Ethical mistakes, however, can bring disastrous consequences that both destroy the business and the careers of its workforce and leadership.
In today’s borderless world, advanced communications technology, aggressive media and heightened public awareness of abuse and unfairness unite to make it both unwise and difficult for companies to commit clandestine unethical behavior.
As the chances of exposure for unfair or unethical corporate behavior expand, so to does the price to be paid. Once the public becomes aware of corporate misdeeds, both the organization and those responsible suffer.
This age of increased scrutiny does, however, produce opportunities for companies that are perceived as good corporate citizens to benefit from that general awareness. Such companies equitably create a friendly consumer environment that, in the end, generates continuing profitability. It is not merely a question of image but of what said image is made of.
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