Values in Tension
V I E W
when is different just different, and when is different wrong} ple in Denmark or Singapore who refuse to offer or accept bribes. Likewise, if Belgians fail to find insider trading morally repugnant, who cares? Not enforcing insider-trading laws is no more or less ethical than enforcing such laws. The cultural relativist's creedWhen in Rome, do as the Romans do - is tempting, especially when failing to do as the locals do means forfeiting business opportunities. The inadequacy of cultural relativism, however, becomes apparent when the practices in question are more damaging than petty bribery or insider trading. In the late 1980s, some European tanneries and pharmaceutical companies were looking for cheap wastedumping sites. They approached virtually every country on Africa's west coast from Morocco to the Congo.
by Thomas Donaldson
When we leave home and cross our nation's boundaries, moral clarity often blurs. Without a backdrop of shared attitudes, and without familiar laws and judicial procedures that define standards of ethical conduct, certainty is elusive. Should a company invest in a foreign country where civil and political rights are violated? Should a company go along with a host country's discriminatory employment practices? If companies in developed countries shift facilities to developing nations that lack strict environmental and health regulations, or if those companies choose to fill management and other top-level positions in a host nation 48
with people from the home country, whose standards should prevail? Even the best-informed, bestintentioned executives must rethink their assumptions about business practice in foreign settings. What works in a company's home country can fail in a country with different standards of ethical conduct. Such difficulties are unavoidable for businesspeople who live and work abroad. But how can managers resolve the problems? What are the principles that can help them work through the maze