Business Ethics Around the Globe: Zimbabwe and Russia
If you have an interest in business ethics, it’s worth keeping an eye on the international scene for commentary about the role that ethics plays in developing economies. Here are a couple of recent examples.
First, by Manson Mnaba, for the Zimbabwean publication NewsDay: “Corporate Zimbabwe should embrace business ethics”
Two things are worth remarking. The first has to do with Mnaba’s description of the state of his country’s economy:
We are a nation emerging from the woods and doldrums. The past decade was particularly painful, strange and unique in every aspect. Conventional economics failed. Strait-jacket business principles failed to offer corporate direction.
Executives had to think outside the box through creativity and innovation. But Creativity and innovation devoid of human conscience is disastrous….
Note that this sounds a lot like how many Americans would describe the US economy. The difference, of course, is that Zimbabwe is actually poor, with a per person GDP that is one one hundredth that of the US.
The other thing worth noting is that Mnaba sees clearly — perhaps painfully clearly — the necessity of ethics in building an economy:
A business landscape where there are no ethics is a gangster’s paradise. Business ethics and corporate governance workshops would help us to sharpen our business intelligence quotient.
Next, to Russia. Russia isn’t a developing nation like Zimbabwe, but it is an economy in transition, still struggling to come to grips with the mechanisms and traditions necessary to sustain a free market, after generations of suffering under oppressive government and a command economy.
See this story, by Andrew E Kramer for the NYT: At 35,000 Feet, a Russian Image Problem. The story recounts the trouble that Russian airline manufacturers, in particular, have faced in trying to build jets for the Western market. Just one stumbling block:
…Russian television station NTV reported that 70 engineers at the plant making the Superjet had obtained fake engineering diplomas by bribing a local technical college; Sukhoi said those employees were not directly involved in assembling the planes….
Unfortunately, this isn’t all that surprising, for a country that scores near the bottom of Transparency International’s corruption perception index. Not surprising, but unfortunate. As I’ve pointed out before, trust — and hence ethics — is absolutely essential to commerce. And if Russia wants to expand its market, and hence its economy, it’s going to need to figure out more consistent business ethics.