My last post, “The Apprentice-Randal is Evil”, brought about some heated debate. I was glad for the chance to hear your comments, and thoughts, about your concept of evil. For that, I thank you. But, as the comments went on, there was one notion that struck a cord with me: the concept of ethics in the business environment.
Most of us would like to believe that companies are more aware of ethical issues, and are conducting their businesses within such framework. I, also, would like to think that there is some accountability taking place, but, something about the idea of capitalism just won’t let me believe that everyone is onboard. Especially big business.
Ethics, to me, seem to be opposed to the idea of capitalism. The concept of a free market seems restricted when wrapped in the tight fabric of ethics. I could be wrong, I’m sure Rodney (a commentor from the last post) would think I am. I just didn’t know.
So, as any good researcher would do, I spent some time on the information highway. Now, I am well aware that a large percentage of information on this medium cannot be constituted as “truth”, but I am also aware that my local, and national, news source may not be impartial either. News is also a business. And, they, too, must also succeed by any means they feel necessary. So, in saying that, I had to take all information as suspicious.
Now I searched for awhile, and eventually landed on an article titled “Most Wanted Corporate Human Rights Violators of 2005.” This title tickled me in my evil spots, so I investigated further.
This article, listed here, went on to outline its findings on the 14 most abusive companies, and the crimes they have been accused of committing. The list is interesting to say the least. Whether or not I believe such accusations is of no relevance. I leave such decisions to you.
What is interesting is that I, personally, have supported a few of these companies on a regular basis. I can even go so far as to say that I have more than paid the salary of at least one executive, at the Coca Cola company, with the amount of their sweet concoctions I have ingested. Sad, I know, but true. (Secretly, I’m still searching for the article that states Coke still puts real Coke into their soft drinks. That I would believe.)
This article, however truthful, did give life to the wooden cogs in my head. I began to ask myself a few questions. Would I support a company who knowingly abused human rights? Would I buy products from a company who used child labor? Would I even take the time to find out what a company was doing outside the borders of this country, if I had a notion it wasn’t right?
I would like to think the answers to these questions would be no, no, and yes, but I just don’t know. Let’s say that I did find out that Coke was indeed guilty of the crimes mentioned in this article. Would it stop me from consuming my daily 300 milliliters of the dark magical syrup? Umm, I guess I could go cold turkey. I mean we are talking human rights here. And because of that, my mild addiction can be cast aside. I am not totally without heart.
What if Wal-Mart was also guilty of the aforementioned human rights violations? Would I stop shopping for bargains there? Yes, I think I could avoid their super box stores, and find a local retailer who doesn’t have eight year old kids sewing socks in the back room till all hours of the night. Yes, I could do that.
What if the company, who employed me right now, was conducting illegal activities in another country? Could I separate myself from my handsome salary, and find work with a less evil entity? Could I risk it? That, I don’t know. I’m not sure if I could endanger myself, and my livelihood for the sake of morality. Again, sad, but true. I don’t think I’m alone, either.
Where is your line? I mean, really, have you ever taken the time to find out exactly how your employer operates? Do you know where all your supplies are manufactured? In what countries? Do you even know where your company profits are going? Are they being rifled into the account of some company, or person, you know to be a criminal, a racist, or a radical? You don’t know for sure, do you? Neither do I.
However truthful this article is, we are still left with the ethical dilemma it poses. How far would we go to not support companies who don’t have any ethical frame work? And, how far we would let our lives be affected by our ethical beliefs?
I don’t have all the answers for you, or for myself. Such things come with investigation, and reflection. The one thing I am sure of is that if I were to see these violations first hand, instead of hearing whispers escaping from third world countries, I would have no choice but to take a stand. That would also mean that I would have to take down the makers of the one thing that gets me through the day. And that is a small price to pay for ethics.
The fourteen companies identified by Global Exchange are: Caterpillar, Chevron, Coca-Cola, Dow Chemical, Dyncorp/CSC, Ford Motor Company, Kellog Brown & Root (KBR), Lockheed Martin, Monsanto, Nestlé USA, Philip Morris, Pfizer, Suez-Lyonnaise Des Eaux (SLDE), and Wal-Mart.