Doing Business in South Africa: Seeking Ethical Parameters for Business and Government Responsibilities (Case Study #11)


More than a decade has passed since serious public debate erupted over doing business in South Africa. While many issues remain unresolved, enough important developments occurred during the 1980s to warrant a new examination of the intersection between international business ethics and public policy.

South Africa provides fertile ground for a wide-ranging discussion of ethical issues, but this case study will concentrate on questions of business responsibility in cases where national political systems sustain or engage in serious human rights violations.

Given the global scope and power of today's multinational corporations (MNCs), do these firms have a corresponding ethical responsibility for political system issues within the countries where they operate? What factors determine the nature of an MNC's responsibility, and are there ethical limits on how firms may seek to change a host nation's policies?

Alternatively, if governments are solely responsible for actions on political system issues, are MNCs an ethically appropriate vehicle for home governments to use for coercion or intervention in another nation's internal affairs?

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