Posts Tagged ‘Business ethics’

Ethics, Religion, and Father Greg Boyle, SJ

April 15, 2013

SolidarityBusiness ethics students often ask me what’s the connection between ethics and religion, and I stumble to answer, something like all religions share the Golden Rule, which is the heart of ethics. As Hillel said in the 1st century, “All else is commentary.”

And at the heart of the Golden Rule is the ability to see others as like you, not as “other.” Father Greg Boyle, SJ, must be the world champion at seeing others this way. And he does this in the unlikeliest of environments: the Latino gangland of South Los Angeles, where he ministers to/saves/employs/buries—and most of all, loves—gang members and ex-gang members, most of them covered in tattoos and recently released from incarceration. He created Homeboy Industries, which has given thousands on gang members a path to employment and responsibility.

I first heard Greg Boyle (“G-dog” to his “homies”) being interviewed by Krista Tippett on her “On Being” radio show. He’s such a compelling person that I immediately ordered and read his memoir, Tattoos on the Heart: The Power of Boundless Compassion. He’s (obviously) religious and I am not, but his steadfast belief that we are all the same before God is an attitude all of us, believers and not, could strive for. He calls his God “not the ‘one false move’ God but the ‘no matter what’ God.”

The book is heartwarming, funny, heartbreaking, and page-turning. Father Boyle is a man of unbelievable courage, love, compassion, and faith. And a heckuva storyteller.


What’s next for plagiarizer Fareed Zakaria?

August 12, 2012

 

Fareed Zakaria is one of the great thinkers on American foreign policy and on America itself. He’s a trusted senior editor and columnist for Time, and host of an influential weekly show on CNN.

Or was, until yesterday, when he was suspended by both Time and CNN for plagıarısm. Zakaria tweeted an apology:

“Media reporters have pointed out that paragraphs in my Time column on gun control, which was also a topic of conversation on this blog, bear close similarities to paragraphs in Jill Lepore’s essay in the April 23rd issue of The New Yorker. They are right. I made a terrible mistake. It is a serious lapse and one that is entirely my fault. I apologize unreservedly to her, to my editors at Time and CNN, and to my readers and viewers everywhere.”

What is one to make of this sad affair? Zakaria didn’t gain his prominence through plagiarism (more…)

Vast Mexico Bribery Case Hushed Up by Wal-Mart

April 21, 2012

After Top-Level Struggle Confronted with evidence of widespread corruption in Mexico, top Wal-Mart executives focused more on damage control than on rooting out wrongdoing, an examination by The New York Times found. 

The headlines are from Saturday’s New York Times. The news article details how Walmart de Mexico—that nation’s largest employer—regularly paid huge bribes to Mexican government officials to approve permits for new stores; how senior management of the Mexican subsidiary was party to the bribery; how Walmart headquarters in Arkansas investigated the allegations of bribery, and how, when the investigations turned up hard evidence, hq proceeded to bury it.

“It’s not the crime, it’s the cover-up.” So goes the conventional wisdom, but in this case it was both: the crime was committed by top management of the Mexico subsidiary, and the cover up was by top management of the parent company.

In my business ethics courses we use Walmart as a case study: Is the company ethical or unethical, and is it good or bad for America.

On the plus side Walmart gives employment to hundreds of thousands (more…)

Hooray for Apple CEO Tim Cook for seriously addressing labor issues in China. When will Nike follow suit?

April 2, 2012

 

Business ethics presents a dilemma when it comes to purchases from low-wage countries. Cheap labor in China makes cool iPhones for us, and cheap labor in Indonesia makes snazzy Nikes. But should an ethical person buy these products? More specifically, are Nike and Apple unethically exploiting the people who make the products they sell so profitably?

I’ve written before that Nike’s business practices are unethical, while Apple seems to be trying to do right by the workers who make its products. A January New York Times article highlighted abusive working conditions at Foxconn, a major supplier of iPhone and iPad parts in Shenzen, China. In response Apple requested an independent audit of Foxconn,and Foxconn announced an immediate pay raise.

Now the New York Times reports that Tim Cook, ,Apple’s CEO, has actually toured a Foxconn factory where its products are made, and the audit he requested has slammed Foxconn for over-long hours and dangerous working conditions. In response, Foxconn promised to make substantial improvements and bring their plants into conformance with Apple’s code of conduct.

The Times notes,

“Mr. Cook’s appearance at a facility where Apple devices are made was an illustration of how differently Apple’s new chief relates to an issue that first surfaced under his predecessor, Steven P. Jobs.

“Since Mr. Cook became chief executive last fall, shortly before the death of Mr. Jobs, Apple has taken a number of significant steps to address concerns about how Apple products are made.”

This is encouraging. Tim Cook looks headed in a very different direction than Steve Jobs, and very different from Nike’s Phil Knight and Mark Parker. Cook actually WENT there. (Thanks to Rick Cole for the link.)

I buy Apple products. I don’t buy Nike.

 

Ethics: I’m giving it away

August 30, 2011

I’ve discovered that many corporate ethics officers don’t really have time for ethics, because they’re up to their necks in compliance training and issues. As important as compliance is—and it’s vital, especially, to comply with the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act and with Sarbanes-Oxley—it isn’t ethics.

Ethics is the Golden Rule, telling the truth, and other non-legal mandates. That’s my passion: ethics, to live it and to teach it. That’s what was behind the book that Mick Ukleja and I wrote, and it’s what I try to teach at the University Of Redlands School Of Business.

So here’s my proposal: if you provide the audience I’ll visit your place of business and do a one-hour seminar on ethics, really ethics. Here’s a brief synopsis:

The Ethics Challenge: Essential Skills for Leading and Living

This is unlike any mandatory ethics training: no talk about FCPA, SEC, or DOJ. It covers what it means to behave ethically, and how that differs from merely behaving legally or in compliance with the rules. I start with the basics: keep your word and follow the Golden Rule. I finish with three essential skills for living and leading. These skills are easy to describe, not so easy to live, but living them will sharpen one’s ethical sensitivity and make it easier to keep strong and to follow one’s good intentions.

I’ll do the seminar pro bono; if it’s out of the LA commuting area I’ll ask you to cover my reasonable expenses.

Is it ethical for Nike to pay people who make its shoes $4.00 per day?

August 23, 2011

Athletic shoes used to be made in Massachusetts. Now they’re all made overseas; Nike’s come largely from Indonesia, where its workers* earn $4.00 per day, barely enough to pay rent, transportation, water, and two small bowls of rice and vegetables..

In the courses I teach on business ethics we wrestle with this question: is Nike’s behavior ethical? In Nike’s corner are those who believe what Milton Friedman wrote fifty years ago: that business’s only social responsibility is to increase profits while staying within the rules of the game. Their argument is buttressed by the fact that the workers take the jobs voluntarily, so they must think they’re better off than if they weren’t making Nikes.

On the other side of the argument are those who believe that it’s just not fair for Nike to sell a pair of shoes for $80 that cost roughly $16.25 to produce, including just $2.43 for labor. Were Nike to pay a decent wage to its Indonesian workers, say double the current rate, it would reduce its profit margin by only three per cent, from $63.75 per pair to $61.32.

One man, Jim Keady, has been hard at work for thirteen years selflessly trying to get Nike to treat its Indonesian workers decently. Jim has even lived in Indonesia on $4.00 per day to see if it’s really a “living wage.” It’s not.

Jim came by his passion to change Nike while studying theology at Saint John’s University, where he was fired from his job as assistant soccer coach (more…)

A lesson in ethics and professionalism from Adolfo Jimenez of Brent Air Towing and AAA

June 11, 2011

When my car won’t start I’m an innocent. I always guess it’s the battery, and usually I’m right, but that’s the extent of my automotive knowledge. So when the Brent Air Towing /AAA truck answered my call this morning I was prepared to shell out $100 to $150 for a new battery.

Brent’s serviceman, Adolfo Jimenez, lifted the hood, looked intently at the battery, then gave me a quick and easy jump start. To my surprise and relief he told me I didn’t need a new battery, just run the engine until the battery was recharged.

I thanked him and told him how relieved I was not to need a new battery. His response:

“I could have told you you needed a battery, and you wouldn’t have known any different, but that wouldn’t be right. I’ve always tried to be professional and have ethics, whether training horses or mopping floors or rescuing stranded drivers.

 

“The important thing in life is to be happy. You can be happy with one dollar, or you can be unhappy with a million dollars.

 

“If you’re ethical, and if your children see you’re ethical they don’t say, ‘I want to be like Batman or Superman.’ They say ‘I want to be like dad.’ That’s happiness.”

 

Thanks for the lesson, Adolfo. I’ll use it in my next business ethics class.

Nike takes in billions from official World Cup team jerseys made by $4/day workers

June 28, 2010

I watched the USA soccer team win its group in the World Cup, then lose to Ghana in the knockout round. Then I turned to my second favorite team, Brazil. I’m part of a World Cup television audience of more than a billion fans, and like most of them I lusted after the official team jerseys—a white USA shirt, perhaps, with number 10, Donovan, on the back, or a brilliant yellow and green Brazil shirt, also with number 10, Kaká. No, I think I like best the red and green number seven jersey of the world’s best player, Portugal’s Christiano Ronaldo. Seventy dollars for the home jersey, sixty for the more colorful away version. But I won’t be buying any.

All these official jerseys are made by Nike. Well, actually, Nike doesn’t make any sports gear. The shirts are made by a Nike contractor in Indonesia, whose workers earn $4/day, barely enough to pay rent, transportation, water, and two small bowls a day of rice and vegetables.

Nike long ago took the position that it has no responsibility for the pay or working conditions in the factories that make Nike gear, but over the past ten years it has slowly (more…)


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