Business Ethics and Society
It is impractical and impossible to come up with a universal set of ethical standards for businesses. Developing such a set of ethical standards would require them to take into account a wide range of religious, cultural, and societal differences which in itself is impossible. Currently, there exist universal morals such as being trustworthy or truthful that are applicable in almost every society around the world. However, it should be noted that every society has a different view or interpretation of what is moral or immoral, what is fair or unfair, and what is right or wrong from an ethical perspective (Donaldson, 1996). A single universal set of ethical standards cannot exist or be operational. However, global society has several sets of ethical standards most of which depend on various aspects such as different religious beliefs, local cultures, societal core values and beliefs, historic traditions and customs, as well as behavioral norms and practices as witnessed across cultures.
According to Donaldson (1996), the decision to impose a strict code of standards for businesses taking into account laws or practices of one culture while ignoring those of another culture can be considered unethical. In as much as developing and applying a universal set of business ethical standards is impractical or impossible, it is easy and possible to practice a business’s corporate social responsibility to a given local area of operations and communities taking into account the morals that are used for worldwide operations. With this perspective in mind, businesses or companies must take responsibility for any actions or practices with adverse impacts on people, communities, and environment in line with common practices (Lawrence & Weber, 2017). For instance, bribery is a business practice that is always considered unethical in selected cultures even though it has minimal adverse impacts on people, communities, and environment. A negative outcome of bribery is just the unfairness and dishonesty involved. Contrarily, for a company, which through a representative, commits murder, such an action can be considered unethical universally given the direct impact of the action on people and communities regardless of the culture at hand.
Corporations have no responsibility or right to change or influence in any way ethics in the countries in which they operate. Any company’s attempt to influence the ethics of a country in which they operate translates to a form of ethical imperialism whereby people do things similar to how they do in their home countries while in foreign countries (Donaldson, 1996). Any company that makes an assumption that their ethical standards and practices based on their culture at home are superior to those of the countries in which they operate exhibits a serious level of ignorance and treats other cultural practices as inferior. According to Holmes & Watts (2000), every corporation has a social responsibility of ensuring that their business does not adversely impact people, communities, as well as environment in which they operate. Thus, a company or business is mandated to make conscious and educated decisions when making a move of operating in countries with ethical standards different from those at home. Before operating in a country, a corporation should determine whether it will embrace the practices and norms of the new country, whether it will impose the ethical standards from its home country, and whether it will forfeit the business because of the clash between ethical standards. Usually, when a corporation embraces the practices and norms of a new country, it is likely to face backlash back at home for deviating from original ethical standards and could even be seen as failing it its corporate social responsibility in its home country. Any attempt by a corporation to influence the ethics and practices in the countries in which it operates may be seen as ethical imperialism by the new country’s population. Ethical imperialism, in other words, means that a corporation believes that its home culture and ethical standards are superior to those of the country in which it operates. Such a belief in itself is unacceptable. In such a situation, it is right for a corporation to determine whether the ethical standards of a country are in line with those of their home country before beginning operations in the new country.
Walmart Establishing Operations in Canadian Towns and Cities
Walmart operates in Canada as Walmart Canada having been founded on March 17, 1994. Its operations in Canada started after the purchase of the Woolco Canada chain that was initially owned by the F. W. Woolworth Company (Patterson, 2019). Walmart has several stores across Canada’s towns and cities pointing to its significance as a business entity in the country. As of April 30, 2019, Walmart Canada had 411 stores spread throughout the country’s provinces with exception of Nunavut. Most of its stores comprise of a garden, pharmacy, optical center, bank, photo processing laboratory, a fast food place, tire & lube center, portrait studio, as well as a mobile phone store. Despite its convenience for consumers who shop for things under one roof, Walmart Canada has adversely impacted small and medium-sized local businesses that have since become redundant and been forced out of business (Ordway & Kille, 2017). Walmart Canada also influences the local economy as well as the lives of people in Canadian communities, which should not be the case. In its operations, the giant retailer has adopted various initiatives aimed at helping solve its adverse implications on the local communities. For instance, the retailer relies on locally-sourced produce, is involved in community projects, and offers low prices for its goods and services to Canadian consumers. At one time, the retail giant came up with an initiative dubbed “Developed in Canada” whereby fresh ingredients and produce are supplied by local Canadian farmers. It also seeks to address the problems caused to the community through the creation of job opportunities for locals, improving the welfare of suppliers, and remitting tax to all government levels (Walmart Canada, 2018). Some of the stakeholders influenced by these initiatives include local consumers, local businesses, local and regional farmers, local suppliers, as well as local and provincial governments.
Initial construction of Walmart’s stores across Canada had adverse impacts on the environment. Its day-to-day operations through the emission of wastes also have adverse impacts on the environment. In addressing this issue, the retailer has come up with initiatives aimed at achieving organic solutions with a focus on reducing waste released into the environment. Some of the initiatives put in place include minimization of organic waste from the grocery unit, control and prevention of the release of electronic water into the landfills and other waste disposal areas. It also has an initiative whereby materials such as wood, paper, tires, metals, and plastic are recycled and reused. Some of the stakeholders influenced by these initiatives include local governments, local residents, environmental lobbyists, as well as waste management companies.
Utility Ethics Method
One of the methods of ethical reasoning is the utility ethics method, which is also known as Utilitarian reasoning. This method is all about evaluation of the cost and benefit of a given policy, act, or resolution. With this method, an act is considered ethical if it results in the most good or the least damage to people, community, or society. An act may also be considered ethical when the net costs are exceeded by the net benefits (Patrick & Werkhoven, 2017). From the context of corporates, an ac is considered ethical if it results in the greatest benefit for all stakeholders affects including workers, consumers, owners, society, and environment. The Utilitarian method’s focus is on the various options in existence while trying to address how stakeholders are affected by a decision. The method also addresses an act’s consequences through increasing more of the good deeds than the bad deeds. A major challenge with the Utilitarian method is the difficulty in measuring some of the social and human costs. It also tends to ignore the rights and privileges of the minority (Khalid, Eldakak, & Loke, 2017). In the case of Walmart, its products and services are offered to customers at low and affordable prices across its stores in Canada. Its decision to sell its products and services at low and affordable costs has been criticized by a section of people who argue that the move results in the lower wages the retailer offers its employees as compared to competitors in the local retail industry.
Walmart also focuses on achieving the greatest benefit balance for the retailer’s stakeholders. On the one hand, are people with the perception that the retail giants major focus or responsibility is to ensure high profits for stakeholders. On the other hand, are people in support of the retail giant’s involvement in CSR since Canadian government levels alone cannot address all societal concerns or demands. It is believed that the Walmart’s involvement in CSR has long-term benefits to the general public. One of the stakeholders that stands to benefit from Walmart’s CSR is local consumers through the corporation’s policy on suppliers where there is emphasis on the production of quality items or produce and improving the welfare of employees involved in the production of the materials or products. Suppliers also benefit from the improved welfare policies of the corporation. The Utilitarian method of ethical reasoning focuses on preference satisfaction whereby the corporation has to operate within the law but still be able to create more employment opportunities, buy products from local producers, and involve more suppliers throughout its supply chain. In as much as the initiatives of Walmart have some adverse impacts, the impacts are addressed through the maximization of satisfaction. From a utilitarian perspective, initiatives of corporations or businesses such as offering scholarships, giving donations to charity, taking part in environmental management, as well as promoting people and societal welfare are acknowledged given their contributions to the good of society. Walmart’s initiatives aim at achieving business sustainability for its competitors as well hence it is an illustration of balance for a net benefit.
The issue of ethics involved in the case of Walmart and other big-box retail giants operating in Canadian towns and cities can also be analyzed using the rights method of reasoning. This method holds that every person or group is entitled to something or to be treated in a specific way. Some of the rights to which people are entitled to include the right to life, due process, and safety (Santa Clara University, 2015). Ethical acts are those that ensure that the mentioned rights are protected. Walmart’s primary focus is on profitability and becoming even more competitive. The retail giant has invested everything to achieve this including hiring managers to oversee operations. The managers have a moral obligation that is derived from their contractual agreement with the corporation and their main moral responsibility is to ensure that profitability objectives are achieved within the confines of the law. For Walmart’s owners, attempts by managers to use the corporation’s property to benefit other stakeholders including employees, society, and environment can be termed as unacceptable or unethical. However, the corporation still focuses on safety issues and ensure due process is followed through its policies. For instance, it gives employees the rights to not only join but also form unions as part of initiatives aimed at showing respect to the rights of individuals. The corporation also has good recruitment policies and career opportunities through which employees enjoy and share equal rights to benefiting from the opportunities available at the corporation’s stores across Canada. It further has initiatives aimed at empowering the disadvantaged members of society thus helping to promote the rights of the disadvantaged in society.
The justice method of ethical reasoning champions for the equal treatment of all equals. This method is used to argue that ethical actions ought to treat all humans equally. If not equally, then humans ought to be treated fairly based on a standard deemed defensible (Santa Clara University, 2015). Corporations ought to pay people based on their hard work or the amount of work they contribute to the corporation. Such a move by the organization can be said to be fair However, concerns continue to arise on the salaries given to CEOs that are several times larger and more than those of ordinary employees. The question is usually on whether such a huge disparity in wages is based on a given defensible standard or whether it is a result of power imbalance hence the conclusion that it is unfair. Walmart’s employees have access to and enjoy myriads of benefits as a result of their hard work and significant contributions to the corporation. Some of the benefits include discounts, reimbursement plans, stockownership, and well as counseling services.
Out of the three methods of ethical reasoning, I believe the Utilitarian method is the most helpful in the evaluation of the ethics of the relevant issues in Walmart’s case. Walmart exists as a business entity with a number of obligations to stakeholders such as achieving profitability. It operates in different regions and locations across Canada. One of its key interests is to adapt to the conditions in every location while operating in the best way possible to ensure that the expectations of stakeholders as well as those of the operational environment are met. With these expectations in mind, it is best for the management to capitalize on the approach of net benefit. Such an approach helps to achieve a net benefit for the corporation’s stakeholders in the long run.
Impacts to My Family
Walmart has direct impacts to my family in the form of low-cost and affordable products that contributes to us saving a lot whenever we go out shopping. The retail giant provides a one-stop-shopping environment that helps reduce the time we would have otherwise spent moving from one location to another shopping for products. We also enjoy the high-quality products and services offered by the retailer to its customers. An indirect benefit to my family is evident in the retail giant’s commitment to developing community through community projects and programs. Walmart also gives grants and donations to charities that indirectly benefit us as a family. Moreover, the corporation ought to be acknowledged for its heathy environmental practices such as the recycling of waste products.
Impacts to My Community
The community greatly benefits from Walmart’s initiatives and programs. For instance, through its stores, it creates numerous employment opportunities for community members. It also comes up with community development programs in which community members are involved. Other benefits to community include generation of tax revenues for government agencies that are in turn used for community development purposes, enhancement of optimal use of local community resources, as well as the provision of high-quality products and services to community members. From a corporate perspective, Walmart creates wealth for shareholders, associates, as well as partners in the retail industry. The fact that the corporation is involved in responsible environmental practices also gives it a good image from a corporate viewpoint. Generally, communities across Canada acknowledge the fact that Walmart has made it easier to shop for products and services in convenient locations with minimal challenges.
Impacts to My Country
Walmart’s operations in Canada have numerous impacts on Canada as a country. First, its entry into Canada’s retail industry has significantly enhanced competition thus helping to improve the quality of products and services in the industry. Second, Walmart contributes greatly to the country’s economic growth through remittance of tax to relevant government agencies both at the local, provincial, and national levels. Third, Walmart is known for its CSR practices that have positively influenced government policies such as those aimed at protecting the environment. Walmart’s recycle and reuse initiative has seen Canadian government agencies come up with policies aimed at protecting the environment with emphasis on reuse and recycling of specific waste products.
Donaldson, T. (1996, September). Values in tension: Ethics away from home. Harvard Business Review, 74(5), 48–62.
Holme, R., & Watts, P. (2000). Corporate social responsibility: Making good business sense. Conches-Geneva, Switzerland: World Business Council for Sustainable Development.
Khalid, K., Eldakak, S. E., & Loke, S. P. (2017). A Structural Approach to Ethical Reasoning: The Integration of Moral Philosophy. Academy of Strategic Management Journal. Retrieved from https://www.abacademies.org/articles/a-structural-approach-to-ethical-reasoning-the-integration-of-moral-philosophy-1939-6104-16-1-106.pdf
Lawrence, A. T., & Weber, J. (2017). Business and Society: Stakeholders, Ethics, Public Policy. (15th Edition). New York, NY: McGraw-Hill Higher Education.
Ordway, D.-M., & Kille, L. W. (2017, March 8). The impact of big-box retailers on communities, jobs, crime, wages and more: Research roundup. Retrieved from https://journalistsresource.org/studies/government/municipal/impact-big-box-retailers-employment-wages-crime-health/
Patrick, T., & Werkhoven, S. (2017). Utilitarianism. Macat Library.
Patterson, C. (2019, March 20). Walmart Marks 25 Years in Canada Amid Challenges and Success. Retrieved from https://www.retail-insider.com/retail-insider/2019/3/walmart-marks-25-years-in-canada-amid-challenges-and-success-feature.
Santa Clara University. (2015, August 1). A Framework for Ethical Decision Making. Retrieved from https://www.scu.edu/ethics/ethics-resources/ethical-decision-making/a-framework-for-ethical-decision-making/
Walmart Canada. (2018, October 11). Walmart Canada Invests $175 Million, Creates 2,500 Construction Jobs in Store Updates to Enhance Customer Experience. Retrieved from https://www.newswire.ca/news-releases/walmart-canada-invests-175-million-creates-2500-construction-jobs-in-store-updates-to-enhance-customer-experience-696872251.html.