First, we need to have a clear concept of what it is Ethics and the difference between the actions and processes of international business development that related with cultural aspects and Ethics.
Colins Dictionary defines Ethics as moral beliefs and rules about right and wrong. An ethic of a particular kind is an idea or moral belief that influences the behaviour, attitudes, and philosophy of a group of people. Webster Dictionary defines as a discipline that deals with what is good and bad and with moral duty and obligation, or as the principles of conduct governing an individual or a group. Larrouse, a French Dictionary, defines as a part of philosophy that focus on the fundamentals of moral, or as the set of moral principles that are the base of conduct of anyone.
What induce more noise in international negotiations are the cultural aspects, which are misunderstood and confused with Ethical differences.
The cultural aspects that need to be highlighted are: the protocol, the religion, the use of colours and their meaning, the corporal language, meal customs and gifts.
There is, also, another perspective about different cultures, which is from Geert Hofstede, and analyses the Cultural Dimensions. They are: Power Distance Index, Individualism, Masculinity, Uncertainty Avoidance Index and Long Term Orientation. One possible use of his method is exactly in International Businesses. The score of dozen of countries is available on his web site.
Business is Business and Ethics is Ethics. The grey area that many people try to develop, to be used as excuse to failure or to allow, or endorse, unacceptable ethical situations must not exist.
A great sentence from Peter Drucker was, when a reporter asked him what he will teach in a lecture, about Ethics. He answered that it will be the shortest one in the world, we will just say: “If you can’t look yourself in the mirror for something you’re about to do, don’t do it.”
Ethics is about moral and to not provoke damage to anyone, to the business, environment, colleague, partner, neighbour, friend, and so on.
A common idea that I read a lot, it is that bribery is expected and usual in some countries. Bribery is wrong in any place of the world. It is difficult to me, to believe that are some people, serious people, that endorse that practice and say that it is natural in some places.
To exist bribery, we need to have at least two actors, the one that “donates” and the receiver, what happened was a long and old process, where the powerful offered advantages, gifts and bribe to have their interests attended quickly, and that process in some world regions become more usual. It is easier to buy the guy than to explain what I want.
In 1999, I read on a local newspaper, or magazine, an absurd, difficult to believe, but it is real and I think that I have until today that article in some place. A diplomat from a developed country said, in an emerging country, and it is written, something like: “who has the money makes the orders”. I think that I don’t need to make more comments on how bribery was expanded in some regions.
Another point that I read, it is that each country makes or interprets their business ethical standards. I believe that it is, also, not true. Each country has a level of “corruption contamination”, that should be the reference. An observation, corruption is not only a characteristic of poor countries. We find it, also, in developed countries, and frequently.
So, Ethics is one thing, business rules and cultural aspects are another.
Cultural aspects and how to deal with their particularities, depends on the study and interest of each one that wants to develop international business, and it is needed, before making suppositions about it and delegate that responsibility to ethical differences.
To kill, to steal and to harm others aren’t a moral acceptable behaviour in any place in the world. Business rules are made by the human beings and followed in a moral or immoral way, as their conscience and education says.