Culture and Business Ethics

The international business arena can be a confusing field due to the variety of business traditions in various parts of the world (Enderle 1999, pp. 9-10). The aim of each business is to maximize gains and minimize losses. This is the rational business option. It is therefore obvious that business leaders who run businesses in environments that they consider foreign will try to find a path that supports the rational option as far as business is concerned (Barry 2000, pp. 12-13). It is not easy for a single company operating in a foreign country to revolutionize the business environment and come up with a new atmosphere that has the characteristics preferred by the leaders of the company. In such cases, the best option becomes adjusting to the local business climate. The end result is that the local culture ends up affecting the traditions of the company. In this short essay, the ways in which culture affects business ethical standards and behavior as well as the ethical position of taking part in corrupt international business transactions will be dealt with.

To start with, the culture of a country can affect the ethical standards of businesses by making it mandatory to pay certain sums of money to be allowed to do business. In such cases, if the tradition is so entrenched such that even the top leadership of the country in question is part of it, the business organization may find it necessary to pay this money which in the real sense is a bribe. This means that the company will have participated in corruption as a way of trying to gain entry into a market. Thus the culture of the host country has affected the ethical standards of the business.

Besides the above, there are some cultures that are strict when it comes to customer service whereby there is a clear code on how business organizations are supposed to deal with customers. In such cultures, businesses are required to uphold high ethical standards. If a corrupt business organization penetrates such a market, the culture will make this organization reform its operations and operate within the spectrum of high ethical standards. In this way, the culture of the local country will have shaped ethical standards by raising them for the foreign company (Hartman 2004, pp. 101-102).

Far from the above, corruption is all over in the modern business world. Multinational corporations such as Enron have collapsed due to fraud (Hamilton 2003,p.14). Is it ethical to take part in corrupt international business transactions? The answer to this question from an ethical standpoint is that it is not ethical. This is because corruption leads to hurt for some people while some, usually a few individuals, get unfair advantages. This makes international corruption unethical. This is the same case for local corruption. What about from a legal standpoint? The international tax laws, as well as business regulations, do not support corruption. This, therefore, means that anyone who breaks these laws can be prosecuted. Thus from a legal standpoint, corrupt international business transactions are not permitted (Emerson 2003, pp. 56-57).

In conclusion, culture shapes business ethical standards in a number of ways. The ethical standards can be enhanced if the culture does not allow corruption. They can also be compromised if the culture accommodates unethical practices. Participating in corrupt Internationals business transactions is both unethical and illegal due to the fact that people get hurt and the perpetrators can be prosecuted.


  1. Barry, N. (2000). Business Ethics. West Lafayette: Purdue University Press.
  2. Emerson, R. Business Law.(4th ed.). New York: Barron’s Educational Series, 2003.Print.
  3. Enderle, G. (1999).International Business Ethics: Challenges and Approaches. Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press.
  4. Hamilton, S. (2003).The Enron Collapse. Lausanne: International Institute for Management Development.
  5. Hartman, L. (2004). Perspectives in Business Ethics. (3rd ed.). New York: McGraw-Hill/Irwin.
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