A Global Economic Ethic: An Oxymoron, or an Obligation?

In the era of globalization, and in the shadow of the global financial crisis (GFC), it is timely to reflect on ethical outsourcing. 

Largely pursued for bottom-line financial reasons, outsourcing in recent times is now assuming a triple bottom-line responsibility that also encompasses the environment and community. “Green computing” is increasingly a prerequisite for service providers and recognizes the value of sustainable energy practices to the future (as well as to the profit line). Community outcomes are less clear but are also an increasingly important responsibility of outsourcing (and of offshoring, especially).

As the global competitive playing field is being leveled and creating a world that is flat, how do we understand the ethics of moving work to others across organizational and national boundaries? In our outsourcing choices, how do we serve the profit motive without exploiting communities and individuals? In light of the GFC, how do we structure outsourcing arrangements that support the triumph of integrity over greed? 

On October 6, 2009 at the United Nations headquarters in New York, the manifesto A Global Economic Ethic: Consequences for Global Businesses was released. 

It seeks to promulgate “globally accepted norms for economic actions and decisions that reflect a common fundamental vision of what is legitimate, just and fair.” This manifesto is in accord with other United Nations human rights guidelines and advocates that: 

“Differences between cultural traditions should not be an obstacle to engaging in active cooperation for esteem, defense, and fulfillment of human rights. Every human being – without distinction for age, sex, race, skin color, physical or mental ability, language, religion, political view, or national or social origin – possesses an inalienable and untouchable dignity. Everyone, the individual as well as the state, is therefore obliged to honor this dignity and protect it. Humans must always be the subjects of rights, must be ends and never mere means, and must never be the objects of commercialization and industrialization in economics, politics, the media, in research institutes, or in industrial corporations.”

This ISG white paper explores how to navigate ethical outsourcing strategies post-GFC.