Business. Money. Ethics.

Designer cat is unethical

All his designs are unethical…

How do you know that a product you use is made ethically?

The answer is you can’t. There are too many loop holes and too many clever people to know that the business you’re buying from has made their product ethically.

Consider Fair Trade. Created to guarantee ethical treatment of employees in poorer nations, it has repeat­edly failed to keep clever people from using a few loopholes and over­sights to keep their unethical busi­nesses alive.

I’m not talking about “white lies” or other small unethical choices. I’m talking about things like slavery, pros­ti­tu­tion, and murder. The cotton in my shirt, the beans used to brew my coffee, and the diamond on my wife’s finger were probably handled by slaves at some point.

A few people may have even died creating the things I don’t think twice about.

These Things Matter

Business isn’t evil, but some business people sure are.

Like my friend who lost hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash when his invest­ment firm stole it. Looks like he’ll get less than 60% back and the thief won’t even be prosecuted.

Or how about Apple? Do you think a company that is metic­u­lous in every step of product creation doesn’t know their Chinese factories are under­paying, over­working, and knowingly harming their employees? They’re working on it now (sort of), but that doesn’t excuse what’s been happening.

There are a million stories like this. It’s an ever-present issue to consumers like you and me. And while there are many more ethical companies than unethical ones, it’s still an issue.

Your Part

What can you do when you hear about unethical practices of busi­nesses? There are a few things:

  1. Be ethical. Do you claim all your taxes? Do you manip­u­late business owners to get a better deal? Do you steal time from your boss by using the computer to play games? Stop it. Do the right thing. Ethical choices are made by indi­vid­uals, not busi­nesses. When you do the right thing, it shines light on those who don’t and helps to eliminate the problem.
  2. Buy wisely. You’ll never escape uneth­i­cally created products, but when you know of a company who makes consis­tent unethical choices stop doing business with them. Let your conscience overpower your comfort.
  3. Give back. Don’t just stop doing bad things, start doing good things. Develop a worldview that includes helping the hurting, giving sacri­fi­cially, and encour­aging righteous actions. It not only helps you do the first two sugges­tions, but gives those around you an example to follow when making their own choices.

Change always starts with the choices of a few people. These choices are like stones thrown into water that cause it to ripple out until it goes over the whole surface.

Make good choices. Be ethical. Throw some stones.

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10 Responses to “Business. Money. Ethics.”

  1. Mike Luna February 21, 2012 at 12:02 PM #

    Good post. Really good post. Probably something I’ll be mulling over for a while.

    • Alex February 21, 2012 at 3:28 PM #

      Thank you, Mike.

  2. Rachel February 21, 2012 at 11:22 PM #

    I’m with Mike, I’ll be thinking about this one. Wow.

    • Alex February 23, 2012 at 1:35 PM #

      :)

  3. Loren Pinilis February 22, 2012 at 12:42 PM #

    This is just such a continual battle. Because where do you draw the line? That’s the diffi­culty I find. No two situ­a­tions are the same. I want to be ethical, but there’s only so much you can do. The way I’ve recon­ciled this is that I can only make decisions based on the infor­ma­tion I have. I’m not going to purpose­fully ignore anything. And I want to do reason­able due diligence. It’s just that it’s not reason­able for me, in my opinion, to do hours of research before purchasing a product for a few bucks at a grocery store. I think that’s a God-honoring strategy. Do what I can, but don’t flip out too much about it.

    • Alex February 23, 2012 at 1:30 PM #

      It’s always good to complete due diligence, but you’re right — we can’t research every­thing we buy completely. Even the companies who make these products often try and fail to find the unethical choices being made by their suppliers.

      All we can do is try our best.

  4. Mike Luna February 23, 2012 at 11:37 AM #

    I remember a conver­sa­tion I had with Mark about a month ago, when all of this Chinese Apple factory stuff was really coming to light. Mark made some comment about the working condi­tions in those factories and wondered aloud if we’re all bad people for exploiting foreigners for the sake of smart phones and tablets.

    I responded with “Well, I’m not, because I don’t have an iPad.”

    When it comes to this sort of thing, it seems like a lot of people are outraged only because they think that’s how they’re supposed to feel, and that outrage will only carry them so far.

    At the end of the day, it’s probably not even a matter of wanting something or feeling like you have to have something. It’s feeling entitled to something.

    Why shouldn’t you buy an iPad? You want it and you earned the money to buy it and who’s going to tell you you can’t have it?

    This Apple stuff has been out there for a while now and I really doubt Apple sales or Apple stock has taken a dip. As far as I know, there’s only one guy that’s actually boycotting their products, a jour­nalist that visited one of their factories in China.

    People might care, but they stop caring as soon as it gets in the way of their rights as an American. The right to have anything they want as soon as it occurs to them.

    The same thing happened with Air Jordans in the 90s, when everyone found out that Nike was using child labor to make shoes. There was a lot of public outrage, then it slowly died out. Has anyone checked on this lately? Or are we too busy wearing awesome shoes?

    All of this reminds me of a line from FIF:
    “It was like the manifest destiny all over again, except instead of taking and consuming every­thing in their paths for God, they did so with the same fervor and sense of enti­tle­ment for their new god, themselves.”

    • Alex February 23, 2012 at 1:35 PM #

      A great comment that really hits the nail on the head.

      I recently read an article that talks about being “envi­ron­men­tall” in America aka buying a hybrid to help the envi­ron­ment. I’m pretty sure you read it, but the idea that “we’re only ‘envi­ron­mental’ as long as it doesn’t hinder consump­tion” has been sticking in the back of my mind.

      I see it every day, and I am no exception.

  5. ixnayonthetimmay February 25, 2012 at 2:05 AM #

    There’s an inter­esting economic argument to be had regarding sweat­shops. The question that never seems to be asked is this: is the employ­ment in some of these horrible dollar-a-day factories in China or Indonesia voluntary and, if so, what situation were the people in before deciding to work in a sweatshop? If the workers prefer working a sweatshop for a dollar a day than, say toiling in the fields for maybe some small cup of rice a day, they are arguably better off.

    Plus the high tide of economic pros­perity lifts all boats. Already in China for example, cheap labor is beginning to run low and people are agitating for (and in some cases, getting) higher wages and decreased work hours. While still a far cry from a cushy union GM job, it shows progress in the right direction.

    I’m not sure what this has to do with the ethical business theme of your post, but I wanted to mention it.

    • Alex February 25, 2012 at 4:53 PM #

      Yeah, it’s an inter­esting topic for sure. Child labor is an espe­cially inter­esting topic because in many countries, the family desper­ately needs the child’s income to survive and the child isn’t in any danger. He/she is just doing the work that is only worth the cost of paying someone as inex­pe­ri­enced and cheap as a child.

      Not to say I’m “for child labor” or anything like that. lol

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