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The Development of International Business Norms

  • Duane Windsor


International business norms do not exist. Content and development of such norms is a significant research question for business ethics scholarship. Any norms must address difficult practical and moral problems facing multinational enterprises. The author’s thesis is as follows. A key circumstance is that international relations remain a Hobbesian state of nature. The theoretical solution of a global sovereignty for norm formulation and enforcement is unlikely. The business ethics literature proposes other insightful but theoretical and conflicting solutions to abstract wealth-responsibility and universalism-relativism controversies. Theoretical convergence seems unlikely. Evolution of multiple international policy regimes fragmented by policy arena is more probable. Regimes will typically be neither morals by agreement nor a morality of the marketplace. Regime development can occur in various other ways. Moral leadership, by firms, stakeholders, nongovernmental organizations or governments, can be a vital force. Formal ethical theories can inform and guide such leadership initiatives. This process perspective is applied to several recent case examples cited here as supporting evidence: anti-corruption, labor, environmental, human rights, and fiduciary responsibility initiatives.



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