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Discourse Ethics and Social Accountability: The Ethics of SA 8000


Based on theoretical insights of discourse ethics as developed by Jürgen Habermas, we delineate a proposal to further develop the institutionalization of social accounting in multinational corporations (MNCs) by means of “Social Accountability 8000” (SA 8000). First, we discuss the cornerstones of Habermas's discourse ethics and elucidate how and why this concept can provide a theoretical justification of the moral point of view in MNCs. Second, the basic conception, main purpose, and implementation procedure of SA 8000 are presented. Third, we critically examine SA 8000 from a Habermasian perspective, and discuss advantages and drawbacks of the initiative. Fourth, to address the drawbacks, we introduce a “discourse-ethically” extended version of SA 8000. We show that this approach is theoretically well-founded and able to overcome some of the current deficits of the certification initiative. We demonstrate that the extended version of SA 8000 can be successfully applied on a cross-cultural basis, and that our findings have significant implications for other international ethics initiatives.

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Business Ethics Quarterly
  • ISSN: 1052-150X
  • EISSN: 2153-3326
  • URL: /core/journals/business-ethics-quarterly
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