Monthly Archives: December 2008

Ethics and Feminism Articles

Sue McLean asked:

What do we mean by ethics?

The word ethics comes from a Greek source meaning custom or habit. Ethical philosophy involves the study of right and wrong. Sometimes people use the word morality instead of ethics. Both morality and ethics are about finding out how we ought to live. Ethics is a major branch of philosophy. (The other branches being: epistemology or knowledge, metaphysics or the essential nature of things and logic or reason.

Approaches to Ethics

There are four possible ways of approaching ethics.

Descriptive ethics: involves the description of how things are or the customs of a society.

Normative ethics: is about making moral decisions or deciding what is right and what is wrong. There are two main ways of doing this, namely by intentions or moral rules relating to duty (deontological ethics) or by outcome (teleological).

Meta-ethics; this approach analyses the nature of ethics. It includes both realism and antirealism. Realism is the view that moral values can be discovered, possibly by using intuition. Antirealism is the view that morality is determined by people’s thoughts and feelings

Applied ethics: this is how ethical values may be used in specific circumstances. So for example, the study of abortion would involve an individual applying moral theory to the situation of abortion. In order to do this they may draw on both normative values those of meta-ethics.

Normative Ethics In More Detail

Teleological Theory

Teleological theory is also known as consequentialism and involves outcomes. One example of teleological theory is utilitarianism. According to this theory one should do what creates the most happiness for the greatest number of people. However utilitarians are divided about what happiness is. Some claim that happiness is simply pleasure but others claim it is about minimising pain. Two major exponents of utilitarianism are Jeremy Bentham and John Stuart Mill.

Jeremy Bentham produced the felicific calculus, or hedonic calculus. For Bentham one could calculate the actual amount of pleasure over pain using a sort of mathematical method. The calculus involves taking into account factors such as: intensity, duration and certainty of pleasure.

John Stuart Mill divided pleasure into higher and lower order, claiming cultural, spiritual and intellectual pleasures to be higher order in nature.

Some utilitarians claim that lawmakers ought to apply the happiness principle to formulate general rules for society. These utilitarians are called rule utilitarians. On the other hand, act utilitarians claim that one should apply the happiness principle to each act and so determine the morality of each individual situation.

Not surprisingly there are several criticisms of utilitarianism. One of the main criticisms is the conflict between the greatest number and the greatest happiness. For instance, what if I can create a lot of happiness for one person or a little happiness for lots of people? What should I do? Another problem is to do with how we define happiness because if it is merely pleasure then this is purely hedonistic and somehow this seems wrong. For instance, it may be pleasurable to spend my whole day playing computer games instead of doing my philosophy homework but this does not make playing games the right thing to do.

Deontological Theory

Deontological theory, on the other hand, maintains that we should act out of good intentions, namely duty.

Kant’s theory is perhaps the best known deontological theory. Kant argued that we should do duty for duty’s sake (categorical imperative). This applies regardless of outcome or emotions and that is why it is categorical. (Whereas the hypothetical imperative states: ‘Do X to achieve Y’.)

For Kant our actions must pass the universability test, which means one should ask what would happen if everyone acted in that way. This does not make Kant’s theory consequentialist because he was not concerned with consequences but rather whether any irrationality or contradiction would be produced should everyone act in a certain way.

Kant also said that we should act as though everyone were a member of the kingdom of ends, meaning that we should treat everyone as if they have their own ends or purposes. This contrasts with a very modern and capitalist view that we treat others for our own ends. One of the most positive aspects of Kant’s philosophy is his theme of respect for others, which has been the basis of human rights legislation.

One criticism of Kant’s theory is that he does not explain why we should do duty for duty’s sake.

Meta-ethics in More Depth

Meta means ‘after or beyond’ so this branch of ethics usually goes above or beyond that of normative theory. Examples of meta-ethical theory include: relativism, intuitionism, emotivism and prescriptivism.

Meta-ethical questions include:

What do we mean by good or bad?

How do we make moral judgements?

Are some things always good or bad?

One key issue is to do with whether moral judgements can be objective (realism) or subjective (antirealism). In other words, whether moral judgements are based on the emotions and perceptions of individuals (antirealism) or whether they can be known in some objective way. Another way of stating this is by questioning whether some things are always good independently of any will or view.


Antirealism holds that there is no objective good but that something may be deemed good by individuals. To give an example, if I believe as relativists do, that morality is judged from the perspective of time, place or situation then I am an antirealist. For relativists what is deemed right at one time may not be right at another because there are no objective standards. Thus divorce was once viewed as wrong in Britain but today many people do not judge it as immoral. For relativists this shift in values illustrates the view that nothing is always right or wrong.

Another form of antirealism is the view that ethical statements are neither true nor false. Both emotivism and prescriptivism hold this position. Emotivism holds that morality is about an emotional response so that I may be kind to a kitten because I have an feelings of sympathy towards it. Whereas prescriptivism holds that moral statements imply a prescription or rather imply an action. Therefore the statement ‘it is wrong to commit adultery’ implies ‘you should not commit adultery’.


On the other hand, I may believe that there are objective moral standards or things which are always right or wrong independent of any arbitrary opinion. For instance, I may believe that marriage is for life and judge as unimportant the fact that attitudes have changed to marriage. According to this view divorce may still be wrong even if the consensus of opinion changes so that just because the majority think something is right, it does not follow that it is so.

Intutionism is one example of realism. Intuitionists argue that we know how to respond in a given situation because we have an intuitive understanding of goodness. We have this understanding because goodness is objective.

It is important to realise that realism is not the same as absolutism. Absolutism is a form of antirealism. Absolutism holds that some things are absolutely wrong in all situations but that they are absolutely wrong as the result of some will such as God’s or that of the monarch. For instance, in divine command theory something is deemed wrong because God says it is wrong. However this makes morality subject to God’s will. If something is subject to a will (even God’s) th
en it is not objective. Objective standards hold that some things are always right or wrong independent of any arbitrary will.


In conclusion, there are four approaches to ethics, namely: descriptive, normative, meta-ethics and applied ethics. The last of these four has not been discussed at any length in this paper. However it is important to realise that applied ethics involves the application of normative and meta-ethical theory particular situations such as: abortions, genetics, environment, animal rights etc. Normative theory is about moral judgements and includes both deontological and teleological theories. Meta-ethics is about analysing the nature of ethics and includes both realist and antirealist views.


Benn, P., Ethics, Routledge, 1998

Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy at:

Norman, R., The Moral Philosophers, Clarendon Press, 1985

Raeper, W. and Smith, L., A Beginner’s Guide to Ideas, Lion, 1991

Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy at

Wikipedia at

An Overview Of Feminism For A Level Students

Feminism often gets a bad press. Feminists are sometimes presented as a homogenous group where the radical is viewed as the norm. This is not the case. There are many different types of feminists. This page gives you an overview of some of these groups.

From a sociological viewpoint most feminism (with the possible exception of postmodern feminism) can be viewed as a macro theory because it gives a view of society as a whole.


This is not so easy to answer as it might at first appear because there are so many different types of feminists. Feminist groups argue against patriarchy, subordination, oppression and androcentrism but what do they mean by these terms? Each group may have different ways of using the terminology. Taking a very generalised view, patriarchy is about structuring society according to male domination whereas androcentrism is a male dominated way of viewing the world. However what consititutes structuring the world according to male domination is a matter for debate.


Liberal Feminism

Liberal feminists may speak about justice in gender issues. There are two main ways they understand this. Firstly, a classical liberalist may argue that we should remove discriminatory laws to allow equality of opportunity. Whereas a welfare liberalist may argue in favour of so called ‘positive discrimination’. According to the welfare view, society ought to compensate women for centuries of discrimination by treating women more favourably than men.

Radical Feminism

This form of feminism is still evolving and can take many forms but it nevertheless holds that the oppression of women is the most fundamental oppression in that it is: rooted in history, the deepest form of oppression, the cause of the most suffering and the conceptual model for understanding all other forms of oppression (Alison Jagger and Paula Rothenberg as explained by Rosemary Tong, p. 71)

One issue frequently under discussion by radical feminists is reproduction. Feminists such as Firestone argue that reproduction forms a class distinction between men and women. Firestone advocates a biological revolution where the ultimate goal is an androgenous society. Other radical feminists such as Adrienne Rich argue that reproduction is empowering for women.

Marxist Feminism

A key theme in Marxism is the alienation of the proletariat or workers. Marxist feminists generally see women as a class and argue that women are, like the proletariat, alienated in society. Marxist feminists are divided regarding how this imbalance may be rectified. For instance, Engels argued that men retain power because of their access to work. His view was, broadly speaking, that inequalities would reduce once women access work. Modern Marxist feminists often view the traditional roles adopted by women (mother and wife) as unproductive in that being a wife and/or mother is about the production of people (care for others), rather than the production of money or goods. Some Marxist feminists therefore advocate paying women for adopting a mother-wife role. Others advocate women working outside of the home. The main problem with the latter being that far from freeing women, this often results in women getting caught up in the capitalist system, juggling the demands of work and family.

Psychoanalytic Feminism

Again this is a very broad category, with several feminists criticising Freud for his failure to challenge the patriarchal institutions of his time. For instance, Firestone claimed that Freud ought to have found ways to free women and children from the tyrrany of the father. However Alfred Adler argued that patriarchy drives women literally to madness as neuroses become ways for women protest against their oppression (Tong, p. 147).

Postmodern Feminism

Postmodernism rejects the idea that there is one singular true view of the world and in this way it may be seen to be a micro theory. Postmodern feminists may argue that no-one, including other women, may speak for all women. Each woman should have the opportunity to become herself, whatever that may be. Postmodern feminists include diverse theories such as those of: Helen Cixous, Luce Irigaray and Julia Kristeva.

Sexual Difference Feminism: Luce Irigaray

Sexual difference feminism (SDF) differs from the difference feminism that Haralambos introduces. The latter holds that different groups of women are exploited to different levels. SDF is about how men and women are different and as such ought not to be treated the same. Perhaps the best known exponent of SDF is Luce Irigaray. One of her arguments focuses on the plurality of women as opposed to the singularity of men. For Irigaray one problem for women is that our views of the world are not so valued as those of men.


Haralambos, M., and Holborn, M., SOCIOLOGY THEMES AND PERSPECTIVES, Collins, 2000

Irigaray, L., AN ETHICS OF SEXUAL DIFFERENCE, Athlone Press, 1984

Jagger, A.M., FEMINIST POLITICS AND HUMAN NATURE, Rowman and Allanheld, 1983

Tong, R., FEMINIST THOUGHT, Westview, 1989

Wikipedia at

Right Use of Power: the Heart of Ethics

Cedar Barstow asked:

Both Meg and Rob were thinking about grief.  So a bit more about that.  Grief, of course, has it’s own rhythm and pace, and is a process….neither to be rushed nor clung to.  I’m reminded of the Sensitivity Cycle from the Hakomi Method.  The Sensitivity Cycle describes the process of becoming more and more sensitive and effective.  It has four phases:  clarity, effectiveness, satisfaction, and relaxation.  All four phases need attention and organically move on to the next.  In thinking of grief, for example, first you need to be clear about what you’re grieving, then take some kind of effective action, then find and integrate some satisfaction from the action you took, and then relax and let go—so that you will have made space for a new cycle.  It is easy to get stuck at each phase and with grief it seems that the most common place to get stuck is in letting go.  Getting unstuck and letting go when it is time seems to involves having a “gut” sense of the timing. It also involves trusting that letting go of the process of grieving for a person, thing, or event, doesn’t mean letting go of it all, but rather knowing that you have integrated it, or the learning from it, within you.

In responding to Sally who is looking for some more depth, I’d like to say something about two kinds of ethical decision-making edited from pages 59-61 of my book:  Right Use of Power: The Heart of Ethics.  I find that we as professionals most often think of ethical decision-making simply and solely as the second kind I describe as complex decision-making without putting conscious attention toward ordinary moment, every day kind of ethical decision-making.

Ordinary moments—ethical attention.

The basic ethical question is: Is what I am doing in the best interest of my client? With this question in mind, the preponderance of ethical decisions are made moment to moment in the ordinary process of sessions with your clients. Commitment to the best interests of your clients is the often unnamed and yet constant foundation that guides your interventions. Everyday ethical decisions involve both personal integrity and professional responsibility. For example, supporting your client’s accurate self-assessment of progress, conveying compassion for suffering, holding hope when your client has lost their hope, making sure you complete a session in a timely way. Ethical decision making is deeply embedded in your professional relationships. Moment to moment decisions create trust.

Ordinary Moment Ethical Decision-making

Let’s break this down a little further.  When being ethically sensitive and aware, there are two kinds of ethical decision-making. The first arises in everyday, ordinary service moments. These require tracking subtle energetic cues, attitudes of integrity, and attunement to being in right relationship. Here are some everyday, normal instances using client questions:

•How often should I be coming to see you?

•Will you write a recommendation for me?

•Can we go later today?

•Can I pay at a reduced rate?

•Would you meet me for coffee to talk about a business idea?

•Is this situation I’m in a healthy one?

•Tell me about your marriage.

Decision-making Using Ethical Codes & Power Spiral

Far less frequently, you are called to make complex ethical decisions that require time to think through your response, consulting with your supervisor, referring to your Ethical Code, and/or using the Power Spiral model in the Right Use of Power book. Examples of such ethical challenges might be:

•deciding how to manage an inevitable dual role relationship

•making a DSM4 diagnosis and considering the ramifications

•reporting impending or actual harm effectively and skillfully

•confidentiality exceptions

•deciding whether your client is being re-traumatized

•making appropriate referrals

•responding and adapting to cultural diversity

•use of touch


•handling sexual issues

•dealing with possible unethical behavior by colleagues.

In these non-ordinary complex situations, there are many forces and influences to consider. Some of these include: regional laws, ethical code, clinical assessment, gut intuition, standards of practice, transference, supervisor recommendations, cultural norms, risk to client and/or caregiver, employer policies, client wishes, client’s life circumstances, and your personal issues and feelings.

I hope you will find it useful to think in terms of these two different categories of ethical decision-making.  I look forward to hearing from you if you wish to respond.

Cedar Barstow

For more information about Right Use of Power see

©Copyright 2007 Cedar Barstow, M.Ed., C.H.T. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to The following article was solely written and edited by the author named above. The views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by Questions or concerns about the following article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment to this blog entry. Click here to contact Cedar and/or see her Profile

Moral Theology

Ernie Fitzpatrick asked:

Much of the church has attempted to make Christianity solely about ethics and morals. Guess who wins at that game? No one! There is no such thing as moral perfection and few if any absolutes this side of the third dimension. There is only ONE who is holy and that is the Creator and that same Creator is not turned off by our sins as the church and most religions would instruct you.

I like the statement by James Mulholland wherein he writes, “God has been pictured in a sparkling white robe, sitting on a heavenly throne high above human contamination. God desires relationship with us but grows squeamish at the very thought of touching or being touched by such disgusting creatures.” Hey, back off you created us! You knew what you were doing (omniscience) and you saw it all ahead of time. Didn’t you?

So, what’s up with the “get out of my face” theology of the American church? Fear based religion just simply doesn’t cut it any more.

I can’t tell you how long I bought the religious dogma that somehow God was disgusted and disgraced by the SIN OF JESUS as He hung on the cross. Why did I buy into that? If God couldn’t stomach looking at Jesus, how in the hell (metaphorically speaking) could God stand me? I know, I know, because NOW God loves me since Jesus died for my sins. But why are so many still living in fear of God? Real dreaded fear!

How many sermons have been preached that the skies became dark as Jesus was nailed on that cross because God in all of His righteousness and holiness could not stand to look upon the SIN of Jesus. I bought that line. It sounded so, so religious. But then I asked myself, how is it that clouds and darkness somehow shielded the sins of Jesus from God? God can’t see through clouds now? Tell me, how does that reasoning work anyway? The answers will come if you want His and not yours!

It doesn’t!

And that is why Jesus came to touch the unclean, the lay hands on the lepers, and to socialize with the prostitutes and wicked tax collectors, because they’ll enter heaven before the religious Pharisiacal crowd. Jesus isn’t turned off by my sins, nor is God! The scandal of grace of course turns us off. We religious ones want fairness- until we need forgiveness. I don’t know about you but I need forgiveness everyday and God’s always faithful to deliver that to me and more!

Moral theology alone or primarily is only worthless works.

Being in love with God, Creator, Being, Consciousness is thr reality of the spiritual life that Jesus advocated and more importantly implored us to FOLLOW!

Turning Led into Gold: Ethics in the Jewelry Industry

Marc Choyt asked:

“The death of one man is a tragedy. The death of millions is a statistic.” – Joseph Stalin

“We’ve dodged the bullet,” is the consensus opinion of the Jewelers Vigilance Committee, according to Frank Dallahan. “A job well done,” though, as the title of the opinion piece suggests, “The Gun Is Still Pointed at Us” by “arrogant” NGOs.

Blood Diamonds got mediocre reviews and was not widely seen and has had no real effect on diamond purchases. Sierra Leon is at peace. Kimberly is in place. Our business can return to worrying about bankruptcies, the internet, consolidations, the latest move by DeBeers.

Yet right now, there are thousands, perhaps tens of thousands-the number will never be known – of American men who spent a few months of their salary to unknowingly purchase a conflict diamond. To these consumers, diamonds represent love and commitment-but to someone in Sierra Leone, they signify something altogether different.

One death can have a profound effect on a family, community or even a nation. How are we to understand 3.7 million deaths, which is what Amnesty International lists as the death toll due to wars funded by conflict diamonds? In the calculus of the human heart, such a number easily becomes an abstraction- which is why Blood Diamond was essential.

Though there has been an attempt at truth and reconciliation in Sierra Leone, little has been done to bring the victims of conflict diamonds together with the executive who ultimately purchased them. Nor has there been any widespread apology to customers. Instead, business continues, now with new ethics rules which ring shallow, to me, because there has been to real truth and reconciliation.

To the jewelry industry, the deaths of Africans have become mere statistics.

Certainly the diamond business is not the only business questionable ethics. We could have a film entitled, Blood Oil, but such a film is not needed when we have reality TV. Jewelry is different than other commodities. It is marketed as an emotional purchase, representing, often, the highest of human aspirations. This marketing is a despicable distortion when the true cost of a piece is environmental destruction and human suffering.

Many in the diamond business are Jewish, like myself. As a group, we are sensitive to history. I consider what happened in Africa as a result of conflict diamonds, a modern holocaust. Many might consider this comparison extreme, but there are numerous holocausts caused by human greed, bigotry and power. All are equally terrible.

It is undeniable that the Kimberly process is a huge step forward. If the world, because of Kimberly, could say: “NEVER AGAIN,” then at least there would be a modicum of redemption. But NGOs report conflict diamonds are still being bought and sold… though not a soul in the industry is “out of compliance.”

Our destinies, to some degree, are all interwoven in this universal human tragedy. Tribal cultures were destroyed and people were enlisted as chattel to gather commodities for European powers. This wealth was exported to build empire and many ventured forth to Africa in search of fortune.

I have a picture of my grandfather. Izzy Weinberg. Age 27. Camp’s Bay, South Africa, 1905.

Izzy is dressed formally in a black suit and vest sporting a boulder hat, sitting in a cart. Instead of a horse however, there is a black man in shirtsleeves and bare feet, as the beast of burden. Even worse than this, one detail, over a hundred years later, still fills me with horror: this black man is wearing a set of horns, tied securely under his chin.

Everyone in the jewelry industry selling diamonds, including myself, are in the cart being pulled by the black man with horns. We have all benefited by DeBeers massive diamonds are a girl’s best friend campaign, which has created the demand for diamonds, leading to these wars.

Some are in the cart comatose, pretending the blood diamond issue is gone. Others are in the cart with the reins, fighting the NGOs tooth and nail with a public relations campaign saying that blood diamonds are no longer an important issue. Let us just have business as usual because… no one is out of compliance with Kimberly.

Some have stepped in the cart without wanting to be in the cart: the unwitting customer who walked into the jewelry store some time in the nineties and with months of salary saved up to buy diamonds for their finance.

How much have things really changed over the last hundred years?

Unfortunately, we are so sophisticated now we do not see ourselves in the cart. There’s marketing, technology, supply and demand. Governments are involved. No one wants an African diamond boycott-not even Nelson Mandela. Still, it would not be difficult to conclude that some evil in our industry still views an African’s life as merely a commodity, like cattle or slaves.

My conviction is that those 3.7 million dead Africans are actually members of the lost tribe of Israel, which make them my brothers and sisters. I took care of their antecedents when I lived in Haiti-a country of former slaves. For two years, I worked as a volunteer in Mother Theresa’s clinics while running an orphanage for a charity organization funded by the international diplomatic corps.

This suffering in the developing world is not some abstraction to me. I know we are all one global community that is interdependent. The reason that Haiti is so poor is because we are so rich. This is why I advocate Fair Trade. We need an absolutely clear connection between the miner and the consumer who purchases the diamond.

By writing such things, some will accused me of “slapping the face” of the jewelry industry. Perhaps it is true, but a slap is clearly not the same as a punch or a whack. To slap, according to Webster means, “to strike with an open hand, or with something broad or flat.” A slap is usually between intimates; sometimes even lovers. My livelihood is in the jewelry industry-it provides for me, my wife and employees, so I am intimate with it.

My wife, whom I have been with for nearly twenty years, fortunately, does not slap me, though there were times, certainly, when I deserved it. We do have real conflict however, more of the H I3 variety than the D VSS variety. After the fight, or the slap, a couple has a choice. They can marginalize each other or they can make up, which begins with dialogue and ends, at best, in a more intimate engagement. Indeed, Webster’s also defines a slap as a Scottish word meaning a gap in a wall or a dike or to make such a gap.

My slap, then, can be viewed as an invitation, now that we have ‘dodged the bullet’, to take the plunge and become more introspective about our part in this story. We are witnessing the end game of a terrible cycle; the oppressed becoming oppressor. It has morphed into an often painful commercial connection between that person in Africa and those in Antwerp and Mumbai.

There is a reason that the bullet was aimed at us. We ignore or dismiss this type of bullet to our own detriment, making ourselves more vulnerable. We also miss the opportunity to turn the lead of the bullet into gold.

Just last week I had the largest sale in our companies’ history, three platinum ring wedding set, from a customer who found us on line and purchased from us specifically because of our stance issues expressed on this website. I was happy for the sale, but sorry to hear how this customer from an affluent California city could not find anyone in his area who could meet his ethical standards.

Many in our industry have been so concerned about creating “image” and “brand” that they miss what was right in front of them-the twenty percent of the popula
tion interested in socially responsible business practices.

On this blog you can read how anyone can take real steps to make changes. I urge you to join me. Educate your customers about the benefits of a fair trade, ethical jewelry market. Those who jump on this market early are going to reap potentially staggering benefits with the added bonus of using business to do good in the world.

By the way, my grandfather had no luck in South Africa. He moved to Boston. I happened upon the jewelry business by mere chance, just eleven years ago, mainly because my wife is a talented designer. If fate had been different, I might have been born into the diamond business, which is another way of saying that everything in the world is interconnected

“With a boundless heart cherish all living beings, radiating love over the world, upward to the skies, downward to the depths.” – Metta Sutta

Ethical Conduct: the Importance of High Moral Standards

William Allan Kritsonis, PhD asked:



                        Ethical Conduct: The Importance of High Moral Standards



Ethical conduct should inspire a quality of behavior that exemplifies honor and dignity for oneself.  In a school district, teachers, administrators, staff, and school board members should understand the importance of ethical conduct in the educational arena.  An effective educational organization entails the need of individuals maintaining integrity and high morals.  The Ways of Knowing Through the Realms of Meaning (2007) by William Allan Kritsonis, PhD provides insight in improving ethical conduct in the educational environment.



     Employees of a school district should serve with honor.  Individuals should strive to help students reach their potential to be socially and responsible citizens.  School district employees should understand the importance of upholding ethical values.  The following statement by Harry Wong emphasize the significance of educators valued principles:  “Teachers are not in private practice.  We are in the helping and caring profession, a service profession to help people enhance the quality of their lives.”  The supportiveness, safety, and security of all areas are crucial in the learning environment.


Purpose of the Article

     The purpose of this article is to discuss ten recommendations that are important in the improvement of ethical conduct.  The Ways of Knowing Through the Realms of Meaning (2007) provides insight in improving ethical conduct in the educational environment.  Dr. William Allan Kristonis is a noted author, professor, lecturer, consultant, editor-in-chief, and publisher.  Using his expertise, he has detailed concepts in the realms of ethics.  The focus of this essay is regarding the improvement of ethical conduct for school administrators.  The administrator is responsible for providing leadership to the school community.  The recommendations that are given will enhance the character development of principals and leaders as they model behavior for the students and staff.


Ethical Theory


     The development of ethical theory dates back to Plato and Aristotle.  The word ethic has its roots in the Greek word ethos.  Ethos is the perceived degree of character or credibility that a person believes exists in another person or object (Haskins, 2000).  The amount of trust and belief one has in another will have an important impact in how persuasive one will be. 

     According to Kritsonis (2007), the value of ethical theory is in guiding teaching and learning.  In the ethical realm, emphasis should be on ethical understanding and how it may be improved.  A person who has knowledge of ethical theory is as moral as a person who lacks such knowledge.  Moral conduct pertains to one’s actions in certain situations.  To solve a problem, one should be clear of the choices for the given situation.  Kritsonis (2007) precisely states, “Before a person can know where to go, he needs to understand where he is starting from.” There must be a mission in order to fulfill a vision.  Moral decisions require a set of values to serve as a form of reference inn evaluating the consequences.

     The values and morals an individual finds appropriate are called ethics.  Ethical theory supplies rules.  These rules are guidelines used in making decisions about a particular situation.  Ethics in leadership deal with what leaders do and who they are.  How leaders respond to a given situation and the choices they make are led by ethics.  The concerns of ethical leaders are issues of justice and fairness.  One cannot be a leader without involving values.  One must be sensitive to the needs of others, care for others, and treat them in ways that are just in order to be an ethical leader.

Character Development


     Character education programs teach students how to be good citizens and develop aspects of decision making.  Effective character education programs affect the student’s ability to be socially and personally responsible.  Holloway (2006) identifies the fact that character education promotes core ethical values, creates a caring school community, and engages the staff as a learning community that instills morals. 

     In order for a school community to work well, the members must be aware of expectations.  The principal is significant in building trust among the community.  Principals lay the foundation for respect and personal regard.  The actions of the administrator contribute to a positive learning environment in the school.  There must be equal treatment among the different student groups.  There should be a common link for success among all groups.

     Principals must understand the importance of creating an effective learning community.  There must be an open line of communication between the principal and stakeholders.  Administrators must be available to students, teachers, and staff members throughout the day.  They must also attend school and community events.  The use of surveys is important in the correspondence to stakeholders.  Kritsonis (2007) states that in all realms, the ability to communicate intelligibly and forcefully can be coordinated with other aspects into an integrated vision and commitment.  The display of a principal’s character can inspire character development in faculty and students.




     Integrity means that the behaviors of leaders are consistent with their stated values and that they are honest, ethical, responsible and trustworthy (Hoy and Miskel, 2005).  Integrity is to say what one means.  One must deliver what is promised, and stand for what is right.  To be ethical means to be fair.  Leaders should treat stakeholders fairly, equitably, and with dignity.  Administrators an inspire integrity by recognizing positive behaviors in teachers and students.  A principal must concur to be liable to a high standard of ethical behavior.  Leaders should lead by being an example. 

     The language of morals should be ordinary language (Kritsonis, 2007).  No special concepts are needed in expressing intended meanings.  When one states, “This action is right,” he is not meaning that it is enjoyable.  There are some leaders whom have inspired us by their sense of integrity and moral values such as Jesus, Isaiah, Confucius, and Moses.  National heroes were exemplified moral courage were Abraham Lincoln, Robert E. Lee, and Joan of Arc.  Moral philosophers that contributed to moral leadership were Socrates, St. Augustine, Immanuel Kant, and John Dewey.

             In the educational field, there have been investigations reporting negative academic integrity and faculty wrongdoing.  Faculty and student misconduct has been widespread.  There has been wrongdoing ranging from plagiarism to falsification of data.  There have also been violations of teaching norms to sexual or other harassment.  Some campuses have been investigated for breaches of regulations.  Academic integrity cannot be coerc
ed, neither can it be taught.  For an organization to function using high moral standards there must be a leader that inspires a sense of integrity.

     Displaying a high level of integrity can also relay the message that the leader is fair and just.  The leaders treat all individuals in an equal manner.  In some cases individuals might be treated differently due to specific circumstances.  Leaders must be fair when dealing with awards and punishments. 



        The realms of esthetics are concerned with active personal commitment (Kritsonis, 2007).  Morally, one is obliged to do right, and if one fails, he feels guilty. An effective leader should be responsible.  Responsibility entails dependability, initiative, persistence, aggressiveness, self-confidence, and the desire to excel.  One must be liable for one’s own actions.  Individuals must report concerns and rule violations.

     Leaders in education have an ethical responsibility.  They must have a moral vision of what is expected of them.  Starratt (2005) identifies five domains of responsibility that are central to educational leadership.  They are as follows:


·        Responsibility as a human being

·        Responsibility as a citizen and public servant

·        Responsibility as an educator

·        Responsibility as an educational administrator

·        Responsibility as an educational leader

·        Responsibility as a human being




     Trust is building confidence through teamwork and open communication.  In an effective school environment there is a culture of trust.  There is mutual trust between the principal and staff, there is mutual trust between the colleagues, and there is faculty commitment to the school.

Hoy and Miskel (2005) states, “Trust is like air; no one thinks much about it until it is needed and it is not there.”  It is important to have trust in schools.  It facilitates cooperation ad promotes cohesiveness.  Trust has also been shown to improve student achievement. 

     Leaders should build a sense of trust within the environment.  Their trust is built by behavior that is considerate, supportive, and collegial.  When there is a high level of trust toward the principal, it is believed that the principal is benevolent, reliable, knowledgeable, honest, and open with the staff.  Trust can be a powerful aspect of successful leadership.

     Haskins (2000) suggests the following for improving trust through communication:


·        Adapt messages to listeners by being sincere and honest in presenting the information.

·        Identify strengths and weaknesses in information to demonstrate the speaker’s honesty in presenting messages.

·        Introduce sources that were used in developing the presentation.

·        Explain the soundness of analysis, arguments, and evidence that can help reinforce trust.

·        Earn trust by showing trust towards others in the educational process.  


     Confidentiality falls in the category of trust.  Leaders should stress the importance of confidentiality of student information.  The school must maintain accurate and comprehensive student records.  Records cannot be released without the consent of parents or guardians.  Staff members are forbidden to discuss a student’s private information.  Leaders should not only value the confidentiality of students but the importance of confidentiality of staff members as well.

     Kritsonis (2007) believes that there are certain principles, such as the duty to keep promises and to tell the truth.  Obvious differences in principle may really be the difference in application due to different circumstances.  Leaders must prove to be trustworthy to achieve a cohesive working environment. 



     In the empirical realm, meanings are factual (Kritsonis, 2007).  There is a distinction between empirical meaning and ethical meanings.  If one was more clearly understood, then there would be less confusion about ethical questions.  Ethical statements are neither true nor false, but they are expressions of personal preferences.  Ethical language is used to alter feelings and behaviors.

     In the education arena, one should be truthful and honest with one another.  This includes teachers, administrators, parents, and community members.  To be a good leader, one must be honest.  When one thinks of dishonesty, one sees the significance of being honest.  Dishonesty is lying, being deceitful, and not trusted by ones peers.  When a leader is not trusted, there is no respect.  Dishonesty weakens relationships, and there is also a negative impact on the organization.  Being honest not only means being truthful, but it also means being open.  



     Respect means a leader listens, is empathic, and has concern for employees.  Respect from a leader show employees that they are treated as worthy individuals.  One feels respected when there beliefs, attitudes, and values are acknowledged.  The relation of one person to another is the awareness of a presence, the I-Thou meeting (Kritsonis, 2007).  Personal relationships are achieved in what presently is.  Obligation pertains to the result of what is on the basis of an ideal.

     We have a duty to treat others with respect.  Leaders who respect others are usually respected in return.  Respect is important and it should be valued.  Seldom does one think about what it means to respect an individual or what it means to be respected.  To respect someone means looking at the individual in a distinguished manner.  Self-respect leads to respecting others.  If one does not respect himself or herself, then one is likely not to respect other individuals.  Typically if there is no respect for an individual, then their views and opinions are disregarded. 

Respect cannot be learned, purchased, or acquired.  It can only be earned. 



Knowledge of Sexual Harassment


     Sex and family relations is an area of primary ethical interest.  Kritsonis (2007) believes that the family is the elemental social institution in which persons are born and nurtured, and it is essential that the relation between the sexes and among the members of the family be considered carefully and ordered wisely.  It is necessary to have moral codes dealing with this issue.  Leaders should not only know the policies for their particular district, but they should be strictly enforced.  The following are examples regarding sexual harassment policies in an educational organization.  


Sexual Harassment and Abuse

·        Students and employees should be treated honorably.

·        Sexual advances, remarks, or conduct at not permissible.

·        Employees who sexually abuse or harass students or employees will face disciplinary action.

·        Students who sexually abuse or harass employees will face disciplinary action.


Sexual Harassment by Employees

·        Employees who engage in any sexually oriented conversation, activities, or other sexual conduct with students or employees is considered to be committing sexual harassment of the student or employee.

·        Employees are prohibited from dating students.


Sexual Harassment by Students

·     ?
?  Student should not engage in conduct that sexually harasses employees or other students.

·        Romantic relationships between student and employees with parental consent are discouraged.




Sexual Abuse of Students

·        Sexual abuse includes fondling, sexual assault, and sexual intercourse.

·        Sexual abuse by employees will result in termination and legal action.


Drug and Alcohol Abuse Awareness

     Leaders are not the principle source of moral guidance.  According to Kritsonis (2007), the most significant source of such influences are the laws and customs of society.  There are some standards of conduct that are taken for granted.  It is not always right to be obedient to laws or customs.  Social standards that are accepted are meant to provide guidance for conduct.

     School activities should promote healthy ideals for the students.  Employees should serve as role models for their colleagues and the students.  Drug and alcohol abusers are frequently absent, less productive, and can cause possible harm to themselves or others.  Substance abusers have a negative influence on others.

Social Relationships


     Kritsonis (2007) believes that every culture has its distinctive expectations and regulations about what is right and wrong in these relationships.  Matters in relationships within class, ethnic, racial, religious, and vocational groups should be valued by leaders.  Leaders should

focus on the improvement of religious concerns as well as race related issues in public school. Displaying knowledge and sensitivity to these issues will impact individuals in the educational organization.

     Principals should know the state laws regarding prayer and other religious activities in public schools.  If the laws are not implemented, there could possibly be lawsuits that would affect the school district.  Leaders should acknowledge and respect the religious beliefs of others in planning school activities.  Students and staff should not feel pressured in taking part in holiday events or programs that are not a part of their religious beliefs. 

      Leaders should also acknowledge race related issues as they arise.  Culture diversity training should be planned for staff members each year.  It is important for everyone in the organization to have knowledge of the diverse ethnic population that is a part of their environment.  Race, ethnicity, and cultural background have played a role in ethical theory. 

     Ethical leaders take into consideration the purpose of individuals involved.  There should be a common goal for the organization.  Leaders should focus on their specific individual goals as well as the goals for the organization. 



Concluding Remarks


     In conclusion, in a school district, teachers, administrators, staff, and school board members should understand the importance of ethical conduct in the educational arena.  An effective educational environment entails the need of individuals maintaining integrity and high morals.  Employees of a school district should serve with honor.  Individuals should strive to help students reach their potential to be socially and responsible citizens.  School district employees should understand the importance of upholding ethical values.  The supportiveness, safety, and security of all environments are crucial in the learning environment.  Leaders are the key players in improving ethical conduct in the educational organization.    Using the ten recommendations that were given in the essay:   knowledge of ethical theory, character development, integrity, responsibility, trust, honesty, respect, knowledge of sexual harassment, drug and alcohol abuse awareness, and social relationships will not only strengthen the leader, but it will create an effective learning environment.  



Estrada, A. (2006).  The crossroads:  confronting ethical dilemmas within the school setting.

     Journal of Education Policy. Retrieved October 1, 2006, from


Haskins, W. A.  (2000).  Ethos and pedagogical communication:  suggestions for enhancing

     credibility in the classroom.  Current Issues in Education, Retrieved October 1, 2006, from

Holloway, J. (2006).  Model behavior.  Principal Leadership, 6(5), 44-48.

Hoy, W. K. and Miskel, C. G. (2005).  Educational administration.   New York: 

     McGraw Hill. 

Kritsonis, W.A. (2007).  Ways of knowing through the realms of meaning.  Houston, TX:  National Forum Press.

Sherman, A.J.  (2005).  Schools for scandal.  New England Review, 26(3), 82-91.

Work Ethics, My Foot ! – Spirituality Information

Vishwriter asked:

People talk about work ethics. Today i had an interesting gentlemen visit me at my office. He was fuming. He was a very religious person and he was annoyed of the fact that a charming girl in her twenty’s wearing tight jeans was reading the sacred book of Bhagavad Gita in the same bus in which he traveled . “How can she touch this book of Ramayana wearing tight jeans and T-shirt….” he roared…

I admired this gentlemen for all the work he was doing but i was surprised at his timidness when it came to spiritual issues. How does the attire make a difference, after all spirituality means moving over the body and mind?. He was in no mood to listen to me…. However, the next few minutes he told me something which shook me up….

“Most of the office goers,businessmen and teenagers drink beer,have wine,and revel in their own way after office hours.. No one in this world has any problem with that. But if tomorrow the same people drink beer,have wine during office meetings, during the normal business hours would the companies allow this? Companies would say there are work ethics which need to be followed. You can do all those after business hours but not inside the office premises would be the answer of any organisation……

Show me any college or management institute which allows drinking beer or wine inside their premises. It is against the ethics of learning…

So when it comes to learning spirituality which is superior to any educational institute in the world , which is far greater than all those work ethics there are certain rules to be followed. One of the important things we need to learn here is to differentiate between Rules and Laws.

Rules are set by individuals themselves. They facilitate personal growth and so we willingly accept it. Laws are set by organisations and governments. They exist to supress your animal instincts and to foster the speedy growth of an organisation,community or country. It has got little to do with your inner growth… In the world of spirituality rules exist and in the external world laws apply…

Fences must be put around young plants or the cattle will destroy them. But when these same plants have become great trees, elephants by the score can be chained to their trunks,without fear of harming them.. So also when a child is taking his/her baby steps towards spirituality there exists a dress code, a posture and an enivornment….You need to get your basics right when you are crawling. Once you are up and running dress codes,posture and environment does not matter but till such time that you have not become a spiritual giant you cannot afford to be complacent about all these things….

I am delighted that she picked up the sacred book but i would be thrilled if she followed those basic rules.. Glory be on to that charming girl and to everyone else in this world for it is the spirit that rules, it is the spirit that lives and it is the spirit that breathes in every being in this world …. “

The gentlemen who visited me in my office was my own Higher self. He was not a person, he was my spiritual friend and mentor residing right within me…However, he visits me only when i invite Him………. When are you going to send your formal invitation to your Higher Self, my dear friend? Get yourself spiritually intoxicated this moment… Invite your spiritual friend for breakfast today…..

Ethics And Legality Of Organ Transplants

Chris Chew asked:

One of the greatest achievements in medical science is organ transplant surgery. People who have failing organs and are doomed to die can now be given a new lease on life by the generosity of organ donors who are giving part of their own bodies to save or enhance the lives of others. However, there are many ethical issues and controversies pertaining to organ transplants.

Discussions on the ethics on organ transplants invariably will attract questions like for instance:-

Can human organs be traded commercially, if not why? Should a person who has already received one transplant be allowed another one? Should alcoholics be given liver transplants, where after all, it was their alcoholism that damages their livers in the first place? What are the sources of organs used in organ transplants operations?

Perhaps the most controversial topics of these ethical debates are about the procurement and distribution of human organs for transplant and are centered on the questions of how do we get the organs and how do we decide who will receive organ transplants?

Since there are always fewer organ donors than there are potential recipients, this fact make the debate on who should get the organ available very emotional and heated which is not surprising because lives are at stake.

To compound the problem, organ transplants are very expensive surgical procedures and only the rich can afford them. Poorer folks may never get the opportunity of a transplant even if they need it more urgently than their richer counterparts. Should the choice of who get the organs be dependant upon who can afford it?

Then there is the issue of not everyone agreeing when death of the donor actually occurs. Is it when the heart and lungs stop functioning or the donor is certified brain dead?

What about consent of the donor? At the present moment, a donor has to expressly agree for organ donor ship in order for organs to be removed except in Singapore which have the controversial Human Organ Transplant Act (HOTA). The Act assumed that all Singapore citizens have consented to be organ donors unless opted out. However, Muslims are exempted from the Act for religious reasons.

Which is the better way to get consent from the donors? By enacting legislations or relying on willing donors?

Since most people can live with only one kidney or one eye, which are organs which can be donated while the donor is still alive. Should the donor be allowed to sell his kidney? The argument against allowing commercial trade on human organs is that it may encourage poor people to sell their organs and even may encourage unethical syndicate organ trading rackets.

There are people suffering and are on the death row waiting for organ transplants to save their lives and decisions about the ethics of organ transplants will have a tremendous impact on them. What is your position on these ethical issues of human organ transplants?

Ethical Insurance

Firoj Khan asked:

Islamic finance places strong emphasis on the economical, ethical, moral, social, and religious dimensions, to enhance equality and fairness for the good of society as a whole, whereas the conventional financial system focuses primarily on the economic and financial aspects of transactions. As a result Islamic insurance might also be seen as an ethical insurance.

Islamic insurance is provided under a principle called Takaful. The term “Takaful” is derived from the Arabic word “Kafaala” meaning guaranteeing. Takaful means “guaranteeing each other” and refers to the concept of permissible Islamic insurance or “Halal” insurance.

Islamic insurance or Takaful is based on the principles of “Ta’awun” (mutual cooperation) and “Tabaru’a” (Donation) whereby a group of people (Takaful participants or policyholders) agree between themselves to share the risk of a potential loss to any of them by making a donation, of all or part of their contribution, which is used to compensate the loss suffered by any participant of the Takaful scheme. Unlike conventional insurance in which risk is shifted from the policyholder to the insurance company, Takaful is a structure in which risk is shared between all the policyholders.

Additionally Islamic insurance can also be seen as an ethical insurance product because of the additional levels of governance required to ensure it is Halal.

Islamic finance principles have been derived from the Holy “Qur’an” (the Holy book of the Muslims), “Hadith” (the sayings of the Holy Prophet Muhammad PBUH), “Sunnah” (the way the Holy Prophet Muhammad led His life) and centuries of scholarly interpretations of these three sources. These rules define clearly what is “Halal” (permissible) and what is “Haram” (prohibited) in a financial transaction. The salient points of these rules are:

Shariah prohibits the following:

‘Riba’ – interest/usury

‘Maysir’ or ‘Qimar’ – gambling/speculation


‘Gharar’ – uncertainty






Undertaking Haram activities (alcohol, pork, pornography etc)


Shariah requires:


Risk sharing


Reward sharing






Sanctity of contracts


Strict adherence to these principles means that Islamic insurance products can also be a viable alternative for the growing number of ethically-motivated consumers who wish to buy an ethical insurance product.

The Facts About Ethical Search Engine Optimization

Meenakshi Wali asked:

The search engine optimization techniques that are supported by the search engines are known as the ethical ways of SEO whereas the rest are under rated as unethical techniques that are not approved by the search engines. Most web masters blindly believe on the so-called ethical search engine optimization techniques and follow them religiously. But the matter of concern here is to know if these so called Ethical SEO techniques are truly Ethical and Effective or not.

In simple terms, the methods that most self proclaimed search engines accept are stated as the Ethical search techniques where as the rest are declared unethical by these search engines. One of the criteria of following ethical search engine optimization states that SEO can be performed only on the genuine content pages of the website, and it is unethical to create new pages.

The ethical search engine optimization also states a few categories of these content pages ethical whereas the others unethical. For example pages that have hidden text in their web pages are considered to be unethical where as providing alt. text to the images is not considered wrong. Such criteria are set only on the convenience of these so called ethical search engines to read through the websites.

The web masters that follow these so called ‘right’ search engine optimization methods do nothing but blindly follow the wishes of the search engines with the aim of getting listed on them faster than the others. But if they are asked to defend or comment on the difference between the ethical and the unethical, they unfortunately are not able to comment on it because they do not really know the difference. That is because there isn’t any broad difference either. The techniques that are rudely being called unethical cannot in any form be classified as unethical in their literal sense.

As a matter of fact no idea of search engine optimization can be called wrong. It only depends on the fact what suits for which website. If a particular service is suitable to a certain website and is also reflecting effective results in the search engines, then they are ethical whereas the others are classified as unethical.

Consumer 101 Ethical Investment

Indiann Davinos asked:

Money Makes The Arms Go Round

Do you give money to the arms trade or to industries destroying our environment? Most of us would be shocked and indignant if accused of doing this. But traditionally, when we invest we give up the right to decide where our money goes and our hard earned cash could be propping up oppressive regimes without us knowing. Ethical investment gives us the chance to control the money we invest and prove that profit and principles can work together.

Ethical investment is not a new idea. The Quakers in the 18th century used it to make a stand against the slave trade refusing to invest money in any business linked to it. More recently it was used to attack South Africa’s apartheid with the state of California withdrawing $50 billion from the country. With credentials like these it is easy to see why investment can be a powerful tool for social change.

Thinking ethically means not compromising on your values or your pocket. For example, the Ethical Investment Research Service concluded ethical funds have a lower total risk then those without ethical criteria.

There are broadly two types of ethical investing. The first is screening the companies you want to invest with to make sure their practices don’t clash with your principles. These can include bad environmental practises, the tobacco or alcohol industries, pornography, anti-trade union practises, or the arms trade. In addition to these concerns Muslims may prefer not to invest in financial institutions where there is interest-based gain. Secondly you may wish to actively channel your money to companies you approve of. These could be companies with good labour practices and safety records, organic farms or alternative energy companies, or those who benefit local communities.

An independent financial adviser will help you find companies, tailored to your specific agenda. You may, for example, want to prioritise not supporting companies who work with oppressive regimes, but mind less about investing in the tobacco industry. Or you may not mind about alcohol production but be vehemently opposed to your money funding environmentally irresponsible corporations. Whatever you decide independent financial help means you can place your money where it won’t damage your conscience.

Why not start with your bank? is the Internet bank of the co-operative bank. It not only has specific ethical and environmental policies, but also fantastic rates on current accounts. They also have a huge range of ethical investments options. Triodos bank only gives business loans to organisations involved in sustainable development projects and savers are given the option of specifically channelling their cash into their preferred sector, whether this is social housing projects or organic farming. The Ecology building society uses your money to provide mortgages for energy efficient houses, ecological renovation or for rescuing derelict properties.

Entrepreneurship With Ethics

Thanaseelan asked:

Why is it important to establish the moral status of entrepreneurship? Unless it can be shown that the entrepreneur does what is morally worthwhile as an entrepreneur, that his role is ethically praiseworthy, not only his or her status in the market but the market itself becomes vulnerable to serious moral criticism. This is because it is well recognised that ethics are the free market’s life line. Many economists are beginning to realise this. Indeed, it is entrepreneurial activity that makes the best sense of profit – another vital part of capitalism.

However, without also demonstrating that entrepreneurship is ethical, the market would at most be hospitable to morally indifferent kinds of behavior; at worst it would encourage moral callousness and discourage the pursuit of presumably morally more significant objectives, such as order, self-restraint, artistic excellence, family values.

When a system is vulnerable in one of its essential ingredients, competing systems that lack this weakness become very powerful if not immediately successful alternatives. Their images improve, even if their actual performance leaves a lot to be desired.

Some argue that all we need is the hospitable environment, but this is false. Even in the freest of societies many, many potential market agents can be lazy. Not that laziness is encouraged but that it is clearly not foreclosed. That is partly what freedom means. One has a genuine choice whether to be productive or not. It is not enough to show that under capitalism human beings are free, unless the kind of uses to which such a system puts human effort can themselves be

morally worthwhile. So the question needs to be addressed. Why should one be productive? Why should entrepreneurship be practiced? What is good about it?

It is not enough by a long shot to answer that entrepreneurship is the ticket to a decent chance for wealth. Certainly one can agree that between stealing and producing, the latter is more honorable. However what if quietism – the form of religious mysticism that involves complete extinction of the human will, drawing away from worldly things – is proposed as an alternative?

How about asceticism – the religious ideal that one can reach a higher spiritual state by self-discipline and self-denial? How will the system that is hospitable to entrepreneurship be defended in the light of such powerful challenges?

The most serious challenges to capitalism come from those who contend that by making entrepreneurial effort possible – by protecting the rights to private property and the pursuit of happiness here on earth – this system corrupts human life. It tends to permit the commercialisation of human relationships, making us self-interested economic agents instead of what we really ought be, altruistic members of our community.

It is insufficient to reply that the capitalist system makes it possible for people to attain a better life here on earth. That is just what is in need of defense. Why should we strive for such a life in the first place?

In a society of just human relationships, there must be a consistent and constant hospitality to entrepreneurship because without this, an important moral dimension of human life would be suppressed or at least seriously distorted. Without such a welcome, public policy and law would yield to more widely accepted but sadly misguided moral sentiments, for example, the call for

greater and greater state power to regiment or re-engineer society instead of making it safe for natural human initiative.

International Company and Ethics

Andrew Sandon asked:

International Company and Ethics

The issue of business ethics is engaging companies more and more – both domestically and internationally. This trend is accentuated by high-profile examples of breaches of accepted standards of ethical behavior. For example, the recent Enron case where inadequate checks and balances within the firm enabled unethical behavior to occur, a development made easier by the failure of the external auditor to fulfill its role properly. Assumptions about ethics and business are influenced inevitably by fundamental beliefs about the role of business in society. On the one hand, there are those who believe that the sole social responsibility of business is to generate profit. For some proponents of this view, profit generation itself takes on a moral dimension whereas others see profits as the key to wealth generation – the main way of addressing social issues (Davies, 1997, p. 88). On the other hand, others believe that the role of business is much broader than that of profit generation and that all those who are affected by the way a company operates – shareholders, employees, customers, suppliers, the local community, future generations (especially in relation to environmental issues) – have a legitimate interest and stake in the way a company conducts itself.

Many of these concerns are relevant to business whether it is domestic or international in nature. However, international business poses particular challenges and questions over and above those facing purely domestic business. In order to reconcile doing business internationally and remain ethical, the company should follow the main principles of human rights, comply with legal norms related to labor, avoid corruption and correspond to standards of environmental protection. Even though it is not easy to combine making profit and adjusting to ethical principles, sometimes failure to comply with legal norms and standards my result in negative public image for the international company and loss of customers. Therefore, international company can suffer even more damages if it decides not to follow the ethical principles.

The first issue related to ethics is human rights. It is a generally accepted principle that international company should not engage in direct infringement of human rights the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) is commonly taken as the appropriate benchmark. However, some people would go further, preferring companies to refrain from doing business in countries known to infringe human rights on a systematic basis. Opponents of this view argue that if an international company abstains from conducting business in a country with an ethically dubious regime, the only concrete result is to hand over business opportunities to companies without such reservations (Barlett and Ghoshall, 1998, p. 110).

On coming to office in 1992, for example, President Clinton proposed to withdraw MFN status from China as a result of the Tiananmen Square massacre in 1989 in which many pro-democracy demonstrators were killed (Kepstein, 2001, p. 108). Such action would have provoked retaliation against US companies operating in China and US business lobbied hard to persuade the president to change his mind. They argued that US business interests would be irrevocably damaged in a rapidly growing market and that the outcome would not be an improvement in human rights in China but a boost to the business prospects of American business rivals in China. The lobbying campaign was successful: the link between trade and human rights was broken and replaced by the doctrine that the possibility of bringing about change is greater if business and other links and contacts are maintained.

International labor issues can be linked with human rights, especially regarding matters of forced labor and child labor. Ethical labor issues also occur outside the framework of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in circumstances where certain labor practices may be legal and commonplace in the host country but do not necessarily represent fair and equitable treatment of the workforce. The issue facing an international company is: does it maximize its competitive advantage by locating in a low-cost/low-regulation country and adopt local practices or does it refrain from reaping all the labor cost benefits by adopting higher standards and more ethical practices than strict compliance with local legal norms requires? A firm may choose to take the latter path and still experience significant competitiveness gains.

Corporate codes of conduct governing general corporate behavior and treatment of the workforce in particular are not new. Their modern manifestation began in the mid-twentieth century in the form of codes from the International Chamber of Commerce and other collective codes (Donaldson, 1989, p. 55). Their popularity surged once more in the 1990s in response to pressure from NGOs, the emergence of corporate social responsibility as a key consideration for firms and the phenomenon of socially responsible investment and shareholder action. Additionally, discussion of the possible inclusion of labour regulation under the WTO umbrella encouraged international firms to assume greater responsibility for their own labor standards, if only to demonstrate that international regulation was unnecessary. Corporate codes of conduct take many forms. Many international firms have developed their own individual codes to cover their own employees and those of their contractors and suppliers. Some industries have developed their own codes. Whatever form they take, codes are necessary for the positive public image of international company and they demonstrate that the company reconciles doing business and acting ethically. Codes need to comply with a number of conditions before they can be said to operate equitably and with credibility (DeGeorge, 1993, p. 88):

1.the contents of the code must be clearly worded and, at a minimum, comply with core standards;

2.the company adopting the code must be committed to it and be prepared to provide the resources to ensure its implementation, including training, information systems for monitoring and compliance and staff to implement new procedures;

3.knowledge of the code throughout the organization is essential to its implementation: in particular, employees of the firm and its subcontractors and suppliers must know of the contents of the code and a reporting system must be established that enables workers to report infringements without fear of reprisals;

4.the code should be subject to verification by independent assessors who have access to the site unannounced at any time.

The application of such codes can enhance internal governance and facilitate internal management across geographically dispersed sites. There is some evidence to show that real commercial benefits can be gained from the proper application of fair and equitable labor standards, although more widespread research needs to be done on this (DeGeorge, 1993, p. 111). Provided the code of conduct adopted by a firm has external credibility, it can both protect and enhance a firm’s reputation, particularly important these days when more is expected of firms in terms of corporate social responsibility.

Levi Strauss is one of the world’s largest brand-name clothes manufacturers and also one of the first international companies to adopt a corporate code of conduct to apply to all contractors who manufacture and finish its products and to aid selection of which countries in which to operate (DeGeorge, 1993, p. 118). The Code of Conduct has two parts:

1.Business partner terms of engagement: Levi Strauss uses these to select business partners that follow workplace standards and pract
ices consistent with its policies and to help identify potential problems. In addition to meeting acceptable general ethical standards, complying with all legal requirements and sharing Levi Strauss’s commitment to the environment and community involvement, Levi Strauss’s business partners must adhere to the following employment guidelines:

-Wages and benefits: business partners must comply with any applicable law and the prevailing manufacturing and finishing industry practices.

-Working hours: partners must respect local legal limits on working hours and preference will be given to those who operate less than a 60-hour working week. Levi Strauss will not use partners that regularly require workers to work in excess of 60 hours. Employees should also have at least one day off per week.

-Child labor: use of child labor is not permissible in any of the facilities of the business partner. Workers must not be below 15 years of age or below the compulsory school age.

-Disciplinary practices: Levi Strauss will not use business partners who use corporal punishment or other forms of physical or mental coercion.

-Prison/forced labor: no prison or forced labor is to be used by business partners nor will Levi Strauss use or buy materials from companies using prison or forced labor.

-Freedom of association: the rights of workers to join unions and to bargain collectively must be respected.

-Discrimination: while respecting cultural differences, Levi Strauss believes workers should be employed on the basis of their ability to do their job

-Health and safety: Levi Strauss undertakes to use business partners who provide a safe and healthy working environment and, where appropriate residential facilities

2.Country assessment guidelines: these are used to address broad issues beyond the control of individual business and are intended to help Levi Strauss assess the degree to which its global reputation and success may be exposed to unreasonable risk. It was an adverse country assessment that caused Levi Strauss to cease its engagement in China in the early 1990s, largely on human rights grounds – a decision that has subsequently been reversed. In particular, the company assesses whether:

-the brand image will be adversely affected by the perception or image of a country among customers;

-the health and safety of employees and their families will be exposed to unreasonable risk;

-the human rights environment prevents the company from conducting business activities in a manner consistent with the global guidelines and other company policies;

-the legal system prevents the company from adequately protecting trademarks, investments or other commercial interests;

-the political, economic and social environment protects the company’s commercial interests and brand corporate image.

Levi Strauss is the example of the company that successfully combines doing business and following ethical practices. As we see, the company code of ethics demonstrates that Levi Strauss complies with the most labor norms and environmental standards; at the same time such actions of the company do not have any negative impact upon its business. On the contrary, since Levi Strauss has positive public image the customers should be more attracted to its products.

Some of the other important ethical issues that the company should consider is bribery and corruption. Bribery/corruption is not as clear-cut an issue as might first appear; indeed it can be rather a grey area. In some cultures, it is regarded as perfectly normal to give an official or host a gift (Asgary and Mitschow, 2002, p. 245). In others, only minimal value token gifts or no gifts at all are allowed. A problem arises when it is the norm for a contract to be signed only after the payment of a ‘commission’ to a key official or officials (Asgary and Mitschow, 2002, p. 240). Such circumstances place international companies in a difficult position: without payment of these commissions, the contract will not materialize and, if they do not make the payment, many other companies will (although that is not an ethical justification for going ahead with the commission). The position of the US is unequivocal about this: it regards all such payments as bribes and, as such, they are both unethical and illegal. The Foreign Corrupt Practices Law forbids US companies from making improper payments to foreign governments, politicians or political parties to obtain or retain business. Therefore, the only choice that American companies have regarding bribery is not to make any payments regarded as bribes; otherwise, it can be considered that a company violates the law.

The last ethical challenge that international companies face is related to environmental protection. Firms can encounter damaging publicity as a result of the environmental outcome of their activities as pollution attracts more and more media attention (Barlett and Ghoshal, 1998, p. 98). For many, environmental protection and corporate responsibility in this field has a clear ethical dimension. This debate is couched in terms of the ‘global commons’ in which all human beings have both a stake and a responsibility to ensure the well-being of the environment for future generations (Donaldson, 1989, p. 211).

In order to reconcile doing business and meeting environmental ethical standards an international company should comply with the following underlying principles in environmental policy.

The first norm refers to the “polluter pays principle.” It stipulates that polluters should pay the full cost of the environmental damage they cause (DeGeorge, 1993, p. 100). Environmental costs are often referred to as ‘externalities’ (for example, damage to health, rivers, the air, etc. arising from economic activity) that are not incorporated into the costs of a product but are borne by society as a whole (DeGeorge, 1993, p. 100). By making the polluter pay the full cost of its activities, including externalities, this principle provides an incentive to make products less polluting and/or to reduce the consumption of polluting goods. This internalization of external costs can be met through the use of market-based, policy instruments.

The other principle refers to prevention. If the company decides to follow the prevention principle it changes to products and processes to prevent environmental damage occurring rather than relying on remedial action to repair damage after it has taken place (Davies, 1997, p. 108). This implies the development of ‘clean technologies’; minimal use of natural resources; minimal releases into the atmosphere, water and soil; and maximization of the recyclability and lifespan of products.

In conclusion, international business adds an extra dimension to ethical issues within the firm. All organizations have their own culture based on common language and terminology, behavioral norms, dominant values, informality/formality, etc. This inevitably becomes more complex when an organization has a presence in more than one country. Some companies believe a strong corporate culture is a means of overcoming diverse national cultures whereas others evolve different cultures in different organizations and incorporate cultural diversity in their management strategy. Many organizations like Coca-Cola and McDonald’s do use core brands but still adapt their products for local markets and follow ethical standards, either out of necessity or to maximize returns. Ethics and corporate social responsibility are closely related. Debates about corporate social responsibility have been dominated by labor and environmental issues but a growing number of corporate governance scandals involving multinationals is increasing pressure for stricter regulation. International companies can reconcile doing business internationally and remaining ethical if they comply with labor and environmental norms enacted at the international level and establish and follow the code of ethics. In the long run, corporate co
mmitment to sound ethical principles and socially responsible behavior is good for business.

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