Ethics, Whose Values?

-- by Christos Papoutsy


The global corporation must develop a system of values that has a common denomination of ethics practiced by its stakeholders such as stockholders, customers, vendors, managers, workers, and the international and local communities.

Is there such a common denominator in values and standards for corporations that could be applied by the diverse business global community?

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Some social scientists search for common ground between western and non-western values. Other social scientists find a common denominator in the philosophical system that shaped western values and ethics such as the Classical Greek Philosophy of Plato and Aristotle - the Japanese Kyoshi Philosophy of living and working together for the common good - the Hindu Dharma, the fulfillment of inherited duty - the Buddhist Santatthi, the importance of self restraint - the Muslim Zakat, the duty to help the poor - and the western notion of human rights.

Other social scientists find a common denominator in the philosophical system that shaped Western values and ethics, namely the Classical Greek Philosophy of Plato and Aristotle.

Which system of values is more appropriate in defining the global corporation's core values?

Aristotelian ethics are more generally accepted then other value systems suggested and, therefore, can more easily translate into specific cultural codes than other systems. In addition, Aristotelian ethics was never part of a religion that people had to believe without questioning its validity and rationale.

Can Aristotelian ethics be taught as part of a business educational institution curriculum over philosophical culture? Although good upbringing may provide a kind of moral compass that can help the individual determine the right decision to do the right thing, it's not the only factor determining ethical code. Educational programs in business ethics can and do help shape the development of an individual's ethical values and behavior. The writer believes that business ethics can be taught in a framework of Global Eudemonia introduced by Aristotle, meaning the material and the spiritual well being of a community, the ultimate goal the telos of the society. Business ethics programs need to teach that the global corporation must not just seek profits for its stockholders and big bonuses for its senior management, but also enhance the opportunities for a society where people can contribute in a business environment in a free economy for the benefit of the global corporation's stockholders and managers and other stakeholders, labor and the world community. Global harmony and global eudoimenia must become the ultimate goal.

Aristotle's list of virtues builds on the four virtues emphasized by his teacher Plato's wisdom, courage, self-control, and justice.


Aristotle's virtue of wisdom contains the combination of "scientific knowledge and intuitive intelligence" and the capacity to differentiate between actions that one should or should not pursue. The virtue of wisdom in the business arena is one of the keys and shields to ethically process complex ambiguous challenges.


Aristotle's second virtue, in the global business is the courageous man daring to invent, create, build, and to navigate between extremes and avoid the temptation to be reckless and unethical.


The third Aristotelian virtue, is an extremely important element as individuals are confronted with opportunities to self-inflict greed upon "one's self' and others. Individuals in the global corporations often lose self-control, and embark upon the cowardly path to destruction. Knowing “one's self” and practicing self-restraint is difficult, but a standard and value that must be the individual and corporate goal.


Justice is the highest virtue with respect to the many interactions that take place in the corporation with the many stakeholders, clients, customers, employees, vendors and the society at large.

An Aristotle proverb emphasizes: "In justice is all virtues found in sum”.

Global Harmony and Eudemonia and the wisdom of Aristotelian ethics, is a philosophical proven system that we need to study and indoctrinate into every aspect of business education and offer to global corporations throughout the world. Can we truly learn, understand and offer these core values?

For more information on The Christos and Mary Papoutsy Endowed Chair in Business at Southern New Hampshire University, whose purpose is to promote and enhance awareness of business ethics by understanding and applying the lessons taught by current and classical ethicists to twenty-first century settings. For more information visit click on to "Business Arena".

Source and Credit:

The Global Corporation written by Dr. Panos Mourdoukoutas. Much of the information contained in this article was drawn upon from this excellent publication dealing with "The Decolonization of International Business". Special thanks and appreciation for his contribution to the Global Business Community for this publication.

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