Advertisement

Journal of Business Ethics

, Volume 155, Issue 4, pp 917–930 | Cite as

Mind the Gap! The Challenges and Limits of (Global) Business Ethics

  • George G. BrenkertEmail author
Original Paper

Abstract

Though this paper acknowledges the progress made in business ethics over the past several decades, it focuses on the challenges and limits of global business ethics. It maintains that business ethicists have provided important contributions regarding the Evaluative, Embodiment, and Enforcement aspects of business ethics. Nevertheless, they have not sufficiently considered a fourth part of a theory of moral change, an Enactment theory, whereby the principles and values business ethicists have identified might actually be followed. Enactment theory argues that appeals to ethical leadership, moral imagination, and communicative participation have been insufficient to the task of closing the gap between what businesses do and what they ought to be doing. To address this problem, a theory of moral change focusing on the relations of power within which individuals and businesses operate needs to be developed. Drawing on the work of John Gaventa, the paper sketches some directions in which business ethics should proceed to help diminish this gap. The upshot is that business ethics needs greater connection with economic, social, and political theories. It also suggests that there are important limits to fostering the ethics of global business.

Keywords

Communicative participation Enactment theory Ethical gap Ethical leaders John Gaventa Moral change Moral imagination Theory of power 

References

  1. Camus, A. (1955). The myth of Sisyphus. New York: Vintage Books.Google Scholar
  2. Carson, R. L. (1962). Silent spring. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company.Google Scholar
  3. DeGeorge, R. T. (1993). Competing with integrity in international business. New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  4. Donaldson, T., & Dunfee, T. (1999). Ties that bind. Boston: Harvard Business School Press.Google Scholar
  5. Douglass, F. (1857). Two speeches. Rochester: C. P. Dewey.Google Scholar
  6. Foucault, M. (1982). The subject and power. Critical Inquiry, 8(Summer), 777–795.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Gaventa, J. (2006). Finding the spaces for change: A power analysis. IDS Bulletin, 37(6), 23–33.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Ghoshal, S. (2005). Bad management theories are destroying good management practices. Academy of Management Learning & Education, 4(1), 75–81.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Haidt, J. (2001). The emotional dog and its rational tail. Psychological Review, 108(4), 814–834.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Harris, C. E. (1999/2009). Towards a theory of moral change. Retrieved August 17, 2017 from http://www.onlineethics.org/Topics/profpractice/ppessays/moral_change.aspx#five.
  11. Heath, J., Moriarty, J., & Norman, W. (2010). Business ethics and (or as) political philosophy. Business Ethics Quarterly, 20(3), 427–445.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Hoffman, W. M., & McNulty, R. E. (2009). International business, human rights, and moral complicity: A call for a declaration on the universal rights and duties of business. Business and Society Review, 114(4), 541–570.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Hussain, W. & Moriarty, J. (2016). Accountable to whom? Rethinking the role of corporations in political CSR. Journal of Business Ethics.  https://doi.org/10.1007/s10551-016-3027-8.Google Scholar
  14. Kobrin, S. J. (2009). Private political authority and public responsibility: Transnational politics, transnational firms, and human rights. Business Ethics Quarterly, 19(3), 349–374.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Lukes, S. (1974). Power: A radical view. London: MacMillan Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. MacIntyre, A. (1983). Why are the problems of business ethics insoluble?. In B. Baumrin & B. Freedman (Eds.), Moral responsibility and the professions (pp. 350–359). New York: Haven Publications.Google Scholar
  17. Moriarty, J. (2005). On the relevance of political philosophy to business ethics. Business Ethics Quarterly, 15(3), 455–473.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Nader, R. (1965). Unsafe at any speed. New York: Grossman.Google Scholar
  19. Niebuhr, R. (1932). Moral man and immoral society. London: SCM Press Ltd.Google Scholar
  20. Noonan, J. T. Jr. (1984). Bribes. New York: MacMillan Publishing Company.Google Scholar
  21. Noonan, J. T. Jr. (1993). Development in moral doctrine. Theological Studies, 54, 662–677.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Palazzo, G., & Scherer, A. G. (2006). Corporate legitimacy as deliberation: A communicative framework. Journal of Business Ethics, 66, 71–88.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Risse, T. (2004). Global governance and communicative action. Government and Opposition, 39(2), 288–313.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Rorty, R. (2006). Is philosophy relevant to business ethics? Business Ethics Quarterly, 16(3), 369–380.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Ruggie, J. (2008a). Protect, respect and remedy: A framework for business and human rights. UN Doc A/HRC/8/5.Google Scholar
  26. Ruggie, J. (2008b). Promotion and protection of all human rights, civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights, including the right to development: Clarifying the concepts of ‘sphere of influence’ and ‘complicity. A/HRC/8/16.Google Scholar
  27. Sabadoz, C.,& Singer, A. (2017). Talk ain’t cheap: Political CSR and the challenges of corporate deliberation. Business Ethics Quarterly, 27(2), 183–211.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Scherer, A. G. (2015). Can hypernorms be justified? Insights from a discourse-ethical perspective. Business Ethics Quarterly, 25(4), 489–516.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Scherer, A. G. & Palazzo, G. (2007). Toward a political conception of corporate responsibility: Business and society seen from a Habermasian perspective. Academy of Management Review, 32(4), 1096–1120.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Scherer, A. G. & Palazzo, G. (2011). The new political role of business in a globalized world. Journal of Management Studies, 48, 4 899–931.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Sinclair, U. (1906/1965). The jungle. Harmondsworth: Penguin Books Ltd.Google Scholar
  32. Stone, C. D. (1993). Where the law ends. New York: Harper & Row.Google Scholar
  33. Stowe, H. B. (1852/1962). Uncle Tom’s cabin. New York: Washington Square Press.Google Scholar
  34. Vogel, D. (2005). The market for virtue. Washington, D.C.: Brookings Institution Press.Google Scholar
  35. Werhane, P. (1999). Moral imagination and management decision making. New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  36. Young, I. M. (2004). Responsibility and global labor justice. The Journal of Political Philosophy, 12, 365–388.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V., part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Georgetown UniversityWashingtonUSA

Personalised recommendations