Culture & Ethics

Ethics and culture are linked so tightly that it is nearly impossible to discuss one without the other. In fact, it could even be said that ethics are a direct reflection of a culture’s core values – a strong belief of what is right or wrong is, almost by definition, a belief in what is ethical.

In the business world, many organizations have a written or unwritten code of ethics. These codes are a clear reflection of not only the organizational culture that has created them, but also of national culture and other cultures which influence the organization. Taking these codes to another culture is not always easy, especially if the core values differ greatly.

Ethical absolutes (such as “stealing is bad”) may be similar across cultures, but the reality is that once we begin to explore different contexts, we begin to find differences, some minor and some more important, in how ethical standards are interpreted. While stealing may be undesirable in most instances, it may be acceptable in others. Ask any child who has heard of Robin Hood whether he was a good person and they would most likely answer “yes”. Clearly, stealing from the rich to give to the poor is but one example of where stealing might be acceptable. Similarly, government espionage clearly happens worldwide, and for some reason, in this context, the stealing of state secrets or vital information is seen as a reasonable behavior to be proud of. (Ironically, in most places the giving away of state secrets is the highest of crimes!)

LCW consults with organizations worldwide to help ensure that ethics communications are understood and resonate with local audiences, across the globe.

Culture & Ethics is also a regular topic on our blog. For example, there you can find:

Best Practices in Global Ethics Programs