Business ethics and corporate social responsibility in a professional practice.
The present article and following content is an English adaptation of the original French text of my speech delivered on 25th March 2016 at the University of Le Havre (France), in the framework of Asia Week and the conference-debate on Enterprise-Politics-Ethics. The content of my article, originally written in French has been modified and updated during its transcription in English, to take into account the latest events in the world since the March 2016 conference as well its consequences for business ethics.
Ethics in history
Although the notion of ethics was raised as early as 1754 BC in the Hammurabi Code, and more recently in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, it is questionable to what extent humanity has progressed in the respect of its fellow human beings, when OXFAM International continues to warn of growing inequalities.
In 2020, world’s richest 1% get 82% of the wealth,’ Oxfam says.
What remains of Oxfam’s call at the World Economic Forum in Davos to act against growing inequalities?
Maslow as a tool for Corporate Social Responsibility and Business Ethics
Maslow with his pyramid of needs was one of the first sociologists to reflect on the needs of human beings so that they could progress and reach the ultimate stage of their experience on earth to achieve their realization or personal legend according to the Brazilian writer Paulo Coelho.
Globalisation affecting Business Ethics and Corporate Social Responsibility
Technological advances are constantly changing our world, but is it good? Is it for the better?
Little by little, we are witnessing a return to slavery in modern forms, of course, but one that really corresponds to a reality and this in all legality.
How can a French jobseeker registered in a temporary work agency in Le Havre expect to be hired in a local petrochemical plant when a posted worker costs, in all legality, less than his modest claims due to the Bolkestein directive? This is competition at home, but not only.
The Law and Business Ethics
Article 63 of the TFEU, Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union, can be summarised with the following lapidary formula: « It is forbidden to prohibit » doesn’t it remind you of the slogan of « May 1968 » in France?
“All restrictions on the movement of capital between Member States and between Member States and third countries are prohibited « .
The second point that concerns us when we read Article 63 is that it does not defend the moral values of the EU. Unrestricted relocations lead companies to locate in countries where labour is cheapest.
All too often we see situations that are perfectly legal but not ethical.
These legal arrangements are unassailable because they rely on the expertise of Luxembourg tax advisors, most of whom submit a tax ruling which the French tax authorities can only endorse, since it is legal.
It is good to recall the excellent work of Eric de Montgolfier, former magistrate of the public prosecutor’s office, »Une morale pour les eagles, une autre pour les pigeons » ( An ethics for eagles another one for pigeons), the excellent film by Stéphane Brizé « La Loi du Marché » ( the law of the marketplace), with Vincent Lindon and the more recent documentary film by François Ruffin, »Merci Patron » (Thank you boss), to understand why too often ethics and business are contradictory.
Globalisation and Business Ethics
What shocked me the most when I went to Cameroon or Madagascar for training missions was the disparities between the natural resources of these countries and the standard of living of their inhabitants. Yet some exceptional people dedicate their lives to lifting their brothers and sisters out of poverty. Such as Father Pedro in Akamasoa, who in thirty years of hard work in Madagascar has lifted more than 14,000 people out of poverty.
Globalisation, Violence and Ethics
We can try to solve this ethical problem by speculative, philosophical reflection and leave it at that and make the same observation again in 10 years.
But no doubt it would be more sensible to wonder why people choose greed rather than sobriety, and why they choose omnipotence rather than humility.
It is useful to read or reread Howard Bloom’s best book: The Lucifer Principle to understand that
« Violence is » in reality a fundamental tool of Nature to improve us « . In a Judeo-Christian world which tells us that « man is kind, it is society that makes him evil « , it does indeed cause disorder. Bloom meticulously demonstrates the opposite and with such talent that he furiously reminds us of Alain Peyrefitte’s » French Evil « , but a different kind of evil.
A necessary awareness and education to implement business ethics principles
Aware of our weaknesses and shortcomings, of our natural tendency to covet the good of others and to behave in certain cases as predators, could we not draw inspiration from the wisdom of the east, which invites us to moderate our appetites, to tend towards the middle way? Matthieu Ricard, a French Buddhist monk and doctor of cellular genetics, also explains this in his excellent book “Plaidoyer pour l’ Altruisme” (A plea for altruism).
The period after the Second World War was strongly influenced by the development of multinationals, which very quickly used legal loopholes to impose themselves to the detriment of peoples, acting as predators.
Commercial terminology itself carries the stigma of violence that should not exist. Some marketers refer to « aggressive marketing » as if the purpose of marketing is no longer to promote a product, but to implement a violent strategy to the detriment of basic human needs.
Could we not discover or rediscover the principle of emulation and mutual assistance rather than that of mortal competition in the long term, too often inspired by the principle of « ordo ab chao », contrary to the harmony of the universe which, according to specialists in quantum physics, tends towards equilibrium?
Hints towards a more ethical world
An operative way to make our world more ethical in the conduct of our business could be to educate our children in the principles of moderation of desires and altruism, so that we can eventually understand why we too often behave like wolves with our fellow human beings.
I do not believe that it is necessary to destroy everything to rebuild a New Order (ORDO AB CHAO). I believe the order of the Universe is omnipresent. We only go through periods of darkness that make us appreciate the light even more when it reappears.
Conference poster – University of Le Havre March 25th, 2016 Speech delivered by Patrick Lemarié at the University of Le Havre on March 25th 2016 in the framework of Asia Week.
Father Pedro in Akamasoa, Madagascar
(For those who have a crisis of faith, going to Mass in Akamaso on a Sunday morning, as I did the first time on 31.07.2019, helps one to remove one’s doubts. An experience to be renewed until the troubles disappear).