Culture and Ethics in International Business: A Global Perspective

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In a continuously globalizing economy, awareness of differences between cultures is becoming increasingly important. Prior to the information age, only select wealthy members of society coordinated international trade. With the information revolution and the internet, more and more people are becoming involved in international business. There are many different standards of ethics in different societies, some of which overlap and others that do not. For example, in the United States and western countries, having a drink during a business meeting to relax is acceptable, whereas in Muslim countries alcohol is considered a dangerous poison. Also, it is commonly accepted for a woman to dress however she wants in a western society, but such exposure is not tolerated in the Middle East without some type of consequence. In China, honor and respect are important elements in professional business conduct. In the movie “Too Big to Fail” directed by Curtis Hanson, Chinese businessmen were immediately driven away by the careless and unprofessional behavior of the American head of the company (Hanson). It is important to remain professional at all times when conducting international business. International business should also be done with the intent to benefit the businessmen, and more importantly the people of each respective society. To overwork women and children in Asia to produce sneakers for the western societies is unequal and thus unethical.  

Another element just as important as culture and ethics is economic status. The economic standing of a group of individuals is going to strongly determine their behavior, customs and practices. Rich families in Dubai are going to have a higher standard of living in villas and dining tables whereas the south Asian and lower-class Arabic portion of the population may be less formal in their behavior and practices. That being said, there are many rich and powerful business leaders that are willing to sacrifice the well being of the population they serve and employ in order to make more profit. Any decision that results in the harming of even one person should be considered unethical because no one human’s life is worth more than another’s. For a business to use dangerous chemicals in the production of mangos in Bangladesh to have the plant grow in 1-2 months instead of 4-5 months in order to make more profit is unethical. And These unethical business practices are made by the economically wealthy entrepreneurs in each of these societies. The poor workers in each of these populations’ barley have enough to sustain their families. The business owners are clearly the wealthier and, in the position, to make decisions, in which many choose to sacrifice the welfare of people for more profits. Conducting business with small businesses and local farmers instead of big corporations in the respective countries could lead to greater long-term sustainable growth for both the consuming population and the producing population concurrently. 

Giving back to the community is an ethics concept because it is the leaders that are wealthy that are trusted to make the decisions for the population. When considering duty-based ethics, it is the responsibility of these entrepreneurs to do what is best for society under the phenomenon of globalization (Clarkson). These wealthy entrepreneurs have a duty to do what is in the best interest of the people they represent. What has occurred in the past is a widespread extraction of resources from the developing countries for the use of developed countries. A classic example is the chocolate industry. Cocoa is extracted from Ghana and made into chocolate bars, then resold to the population in both countries and around the world for a profit. This one-sided economic flow leaves the developing countries worse off than the developed countries, even though the developing countries are the ones need in assistance. Egypt is another example where cotton is exported by wealthy business owners to clothing factories in Turkey and Europe, then resold as produced clothing in the region. This leaves the poor farming population of Egypt incredibly poor, barley able to sustain their population, while the business owners make masses of profit off of the currency exchange rate. With this in mind, it is a duty and obligation for these businesses owners to take the millions of dollars they make and invest it in infrastructure, schools, human capital, economic development and other strategies to increase the well being of the population as a whole. With mass production capabilities being what they are today, and one U.S. Dollar equal to seven Egyptian Pounds and 77.75 Bangladeshi Takas, there is no reason that the poor populations in these countries cannot at least have a grocery store to purchase clean, disease free food, well organized school systems and reasonable paying job opportunities with healthy working conditions. 


Clarkson, K. W., Miller, R. L., & Cross, F. B. (2012). Business law: text and cases: legal, ethical, global, and corporate environment (12th ed.). Mason, OH: South-Western Cengage Learning.

Hanson, C. (Director). (2012). Too big to fail [Motion picture]. U.S.A.: HBO Home Entertainment