Posts Tagged ‘outsourcing’

Ethics sold here

March 19, 2010

So my friend’s friend with the tea business, somehow hit the jackpot and her business shot off. Now she is this big time importer of exotic organic teas, which she boasts are full of flavor and not that watered down stuff you get from those other guys. Her slogan is “real teas don’t tease”…..corny, but it seems to be working out for her. How did she do that so quickly you say? To that I say what my daughter says..”lets pretend”.

So, like I said, she’s big now,her company even has its own corporate culture (CC). That’s when you know you’re in the big leagues, you have your own corporate culture. She’s expanding pretty quickly so she decides to buy out her biggest foeign supplier. All in all the process went pretty smoothly. She is now officially a MULTINATIONAL CORPORATION (remember, we’re pretending here), or an MC if you will.

She sends some of her managers to checkout the new operations, but they return with some ticklish issues…. the MC could have some problems with the CC. Seems like they don’t do things quite the same way they’re done at HQ. Terms like “standardization”, “positive relationships with external providers”, “compliance with best practices”,and “operating within legal and regulatory” parameters started to be used. The new guys don’t quite interpret these ideas in the same manner as their foreign counterparts. Hmmm…tricky.

This is not a new issue, neither is it uncommon. Thing is, there is no one right answer to how we should approach these situations and we generally end up with more questions than answers. One school of thought is that we just turn a blind eye, after all they’re pretty much doing what they were doing all along anyway and we were fine with it. Yeah you were fine with it because although you may have suspected things were not as “transparent” as you would like you were not sure. In cases like that, there is nothing as comforting as the security of uncertainty.

Another position is that we insist on strict enforcement of our company’s ethical position. After all, we have awards and stuff. We’re super ethical, we know how to do this. While this is laudable, all it serves to do is aggravate the “new people” and removes cultural considerations from the ethical argument. Ethics and ethical behavior are as much a function of the cultural environment as they are a function of company policy.

Then you have ex-CIA types who want to mount some sort of clandestine operation. Strategically select some of the new managers. Bring them back to HQ. Wine then and dine them. Let them see how it could be worth their while if they could adopt the “new ways” and take them back to their own country and spread the new gospel. In other words lets bribe a few and get them to go back and deceive the others into thinking that this is the way to go. Hmmmm…now that’s ethical.

The way I see it, there really is no easy way around the whole mess. If we are truthful and try to be objective, we’ll admit that there are some thinks we can’t paint with the broad brush of globalisation. Like politics, there are some aspects that are really all local. Ethics and ethical behaviour are ideals that we may never achieve for the simple fact that in order to get greater “buy in” we have to compromise, and when it comes to being truly ethical, there is no room for that. Looks like we’ll just have to settle for being ethical……….ish.

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