Dear Ethix – Issue 20

Palestinian Partnership

I write from the war-torn West Bank after reading my second free issue of Ethix. As a Palestinian-American who returned from Ohio to be part of the building of the emerging State of Palestine, I cannot express enough my satisfaction with the issues and editorial approach of your Bulletin.

As we build the most recent country in our world, we are always faced in the ICT [information, communications and technology] sector with how to leapfrog and do things “right”. The quality, insight, and depth of coverage you provide is a stimulating factor for our development, even as we are on hold for the current war to pass tide in order for our development to continue.

My subscription (and an extra one for a year of back issues) is in the mail.
Sam Bahour
Al-Bireh, Occupied Palestine
Middle East

Controls for Multinational Companies?

I read with interest your interview with Condit and now I have a question for Ethix to consider. I believe ethics is about more than personal opinions, current state of affairs, and so forth. It is about moral foundations, about how we should act — not how we are required to act. Here’s my question to you: Is it time for a profound discussion about how businesses, especially very large, multinational businesses, should behave? Shouldn’t we examine what moral connections and responsibilities bind together businesses and the people who work for them and the communities that host them and support them?

Of course, I raise this question in light of Boeing’s own recent behavior and I have some ill-formed thoughts and opinions on the matter. But I am not wedded to any of them. It’s just that I would like to see a discussion of ethics in business framed in the broader social and moral context in which they operate and not strictly from the viewpoint of the business leaders as businessmen.

Let me give an example that might ground what I’m thinking. Boeing’s new sonic cruiser, if TBC — The Boeing Company — goes forward with it, will be built somewhere. How should the decision on where to build be made? Are profits to be the only guideposts? What role should TBC’s history in Seattle play? More importantly, who should be involved in making various decisions that affect so many. Certainly, TBC should be involved. Its stockholders should have some say, perhaps through the market. But what about the employees who have far more invested in TBC (i.e., their lives) than any single shareholder or institution? Shouldn’t they have a role? What about the community?

I believe these are difficult questions. Certainly national governments have always felt they had a role in corporate decision making and they have been willing to take extreme measures when they felt things weren’t working correctly. Nationalization comes to mind. But now that’s further complicated by large, diversified, multinational governments.

Enough. You get my drift. What do you think? Thanks for Ethix.
David R. Ferguson
Issaquah, WA

Family Friendly Businesses

In Ethix 19 David wrote an article entitled “Good Business: What Is It?” I found it valuable and timely for a culture shaken by terrorism and reconsidering its values. A friend recently introduced me to lawyer back east who is creating a model for a business structure that is more friendly to families and a balanced life. He and others are finding that some businesses have so directly correlated their success with hours worked that creating a balanced life is nearly impossible. Other businesses, concerned about reducing turnover and creating healthy cultures, are taking a long-range view of creating a family friendly business environment. Early research we’ve seen backs up this approach presented by scores of businesses we have honored at Families Northwest over the last 5 years.

These businesses and the efforts by this enterprising lawyer give me hope that we will soon be seeing progress in shifting toward a more family affirming culture particularly in the workplace.

Good work, guys. Change the culture!
Jeff Kemp
Executive Director, Families Northwest
Bellevue, WA