Formulating a Moral Core for International Codes of Conduct

International Corporate Responsibility Series 2:47-63 (2005)
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Abstract

A moral core places ethical considerations superior to business interest. This core must include voluntary prescriptions in various forms to “buy higher, sell lower.” International business ethics must somehow address the tradeoff between corporate financial and stakeholder interests. Corporation codes of conduct generally do not define a moral core. Corporate citizenship is typically strategic investment in markets and reputation. There are two practical paths for formulating a moral core. One path is civil lawsuits against multinationals that, successful or not, increase corporate moral sensitivity. The other path is evolution of multilateral codes of conductembedding negotiated norms for guidance of corporate behavior. Four key cases illustrate: (1) World Bank approach for combating corruption in Chad; (2) a lawsuit against Unocal alleging human rights abuses by Myanmar; (3) a lawsuit against ChevronTexaco alleging environmental and community damages in Ecuadorian Amazonia; and (4) demand by developing countries for relaxing intellectual property rights.

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