International Marketing Challenges
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International Business Ethics
International business ethics is a particularly complex issue as ethical standards are different depending on where you are. Corporate governance, bribery, corruption, working conditions and targeted marketing are all issues that require organisations to establish an ethical standpoint from which they can work on.
There is an increasing emphasis on the corporate responsibility of large organisations from developed nations and the way they operate in third world countries. Many nations now impose their ethical standards on developing countries even though they themselves have been guilty of arguably unethical practices in the past. For example, the poor working conditions suffered in the third world were commonplace during the industrialisation of many western economies.
Some of the most common international ethical issues surround the environment, child labour, working standards and conditions, targeting marketing to vulnerable individuals and corruption.
Corporate governance is the trend towards large organisations developing their own systems of dealing with ethical issues and setting strategic direction. Ethical corporate governance is concerned with encouraging organisations to be transparent in their operations, finances and behaviour in domestic and international markets. It is believed that this transparency forces organisations to act in a way that is popular with the wider consumer market rather than just the stakeholders in a company.
Social responsibility is a current issue being debated by the public, government, organisations and critics. Organisations who claim to be socially responsible ensure that their business practices don't impede on human rights and increase the global standard of living. Many also claim to be reducing their impact on the environment through a variety of strategies. However, critics argue that such policies can make it difficult for developing nations who don't have the systems and social structures in place to meet the high demands placed on them.
Bribery and corruption is another critical ethical concern for international organisations. Whilst it may seem like a clearly defined legal issue at first, it becomes more complex when you realise that it is far from illegal in some countries and can even be part of the business culture. International organisations are encouraged to not participate in such business practices. Any payments made should be within the law of both the local country and the home country and should be fully disclosed to the public.
Whilst the temptation to help the process along in many countries can be high, it is important to be aware of the consequences for doing so. Unsavoury and unethical business practices and payments can be used against you or your organisation at a later stage. For example, bribes may go unquestioned for a period of time, but the record of them could be used against you later as an act of extortion, bargaining or retaliation.
When conducting international business, you should make yourself aware of the different business practices and ethical standpoints around the world. Whilst you should always maintain a high ethical standpoint yourself, you should also be prepared to acknowledge the different standards and expectations of others and their reasons for them.