What is Global ethic(s) and do we need it?

Features, Guest Author

Vol. 25, Issue 01, 09 September 2022

As we all know, among firms and organisations more interest has been paid to the themes related to sustainability, responsibility, and integrity. As a result, conventional models for understanding interorganizational behavior are gradually replaced by circular models with an increasing number of diverse actors in more complex networks. As human actors are the major carriers of transformation regarding responsibility, there cannot be any substantial change in strategic decision making among companies and organisations unless future generations, such as our students at XAMK, have sufficient skills, positive moral values, and are oriented towards more responsible solutions. This observation is crucial since the current students represent the specialists and managers of the future. Most likely, our students will be also influential in their own local and virtual communities.

The global world of today is truly complex and there are political, environmental, and social threats across the world. Surely, firms have created their CSR- related policies to manage uncertainties and volatilities with diverse strategies. These policies are, however, not always working properly. Measures such as greenwashing and moral disengagement express tendencies towards unethical behaviour, which is probably not formally accepted but applied still. Besides, the ethical programs applied by various companies’ network members give guidance only for them, and not for the others. In addition, the current discussion of how to truly associate the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by United Nations with ethical procedures, might require discussion on global, or even universal values.  It seems to be so that there might be need and space for discussion on ethics that goes beyond organizational and community boundaries. Global ethics can be an approach to overcome problematic areas and dilemmas prevalent in the modern world.

But what is global ethics? What is meant by that? ‘Global ethic is a way of life guided by moral principles capable of fostering harmonious coexistence’ claims Hans Kűng, who was one the most prominent thinkers related to global ethics. The primary idea behind this philosophy is quite simple: there is an intention to create and promote a basic ethical consensus in the world of today by defining common moral values and ethical standards that can be applied all over the world. Global ethics as an approach contain a minimal set of general principles related to ethics that all human beings could accept irrespective of their own cultural background. The set of moral as values that is proposed is important not just for ‘us’ – e.g., for firms and their network members – but for ‘them’ as well.

Global ethics is strongly rooted the history of mankind as  Kűng addresses that the set of values is ‘not a new invention but only a new discovery.’ Indeed, diverse faith  and belief systems as well as religious movements have lot of things in common such as the Golden Rule: treat the others in the same way you want to be treated. A simple principle that can be applied under many circumstances – at least one can try to apply it! To exemplify the other principles, there is a proposal that underlines that all the people should be treated humanely. In addition, there are some other suggestions such as respect of all life, act truthfully, love and respect each other, and try to behave honestly and express integrity in all your relationships.

But what is the significance of all this? Do we really need this? Global ethics as a moral philosophical framework might provide a basis for discussing and tackling responsibility- related issues more deeply by providing a complementary approach. The recommendations for achieving peaceful co-existence, and harmony are more important than probably ever before. During the studies our students are obliged to apply diverse methods and approaches for categorizing different cultures – Hofstede and Huntington are well known scholars. Perhaps this maybe valid for some scientific purposes, but they may lead to unnecessary disaggregation, which does not provide a sufficient basis for understanding the principles of harmonious co-existence. Consequently, if universal moralism has a place on Earth, this state should not be a theoretical illusion, but an expression of reality. All this might sound idealistic, but the globe requires this. What do you think?

Dr Markku Nikkanen
Principal Lecturer, Xamk