Ethics in Business
Posted by John V McWilliams
Abdul Rahman Mojahed is a translator, reviser and author. He was born in 1982, Damietta City in Egypt. He graduated in 2006 from Islamic Studies Section, English Department Faculty of Languages and Translation, Al-Azhar University- Cairo, Egypt. He is the author of 'Superior Woman, Inferior Man, in Islam' as the first in a series of books aimed at unveiling the truly pure nature of Islam. He is also the author of 'Jihad: Peaceful Strife for Reformation' which is still under publication.
Considering John Paul's views on ethics in life and business, the question arises, for example, ought a company to obey the laws of its home country, or should it follow the less stringent laws of the developing country in which it does business?
Mojahed: It is my viewpoint that each company has to follow its own business ethics, which is based on religion and laws applicable in the country in which it operates. The ways and means used by a company to realize profits should comply with the company's business ethics as well as applicable laws. Whether such laws are more or less stringent, there are still in place such business ethics that are adopted by the company. The company's operations should comply with its own code of ethics, which is based on religion so that it will ensure that such operations yield real benefits to customers and cause no harm to anybody as a result of, for example, deceit, fraud or exploitation.
It is said that in a competitive business environment, those companies that survive are the ones that recognize that their only role is to maximize profits. Would you agree on this view and that the competitive system fosters a downward ethical spiral?
Mojahed: Just as maximum profitability is sought after, ethics should be maintained to ensure that only real profits are realized. Real profits are those, which bring advantage to the company, the customer and the society in which they are realized. There should be no harm associated with real profits. Not every material advantage brought by any way or means can be seen as a real profit. Any such physical advantage causing harm to anybody for involving, for example, deceit, monopoly or exploitation, is not a profit. Each company should bear in mind that any profit involving harm to anybody or lacking in any real value is a loss to be incurred sooner or later, directly or indirectly, individually or collectively. A company can be happy only with such profit, which has real value and is free from harm to anybody. I agree that the competitive system fosters a downward ethical spiral. This fact is attributable to the desire of each company to maximize its own profits using any unethical ways or means even if it has resort to fraud or does not provide products or services having real value. This is very dangerous to the business community for, as I have already indicated, only real profits generated by real benefits are needed, otherwise alleged profits will turn into losses to be incurred sooner or later, directly or indirectly, individually or collectively.
In the 1984 Bhopal Union Carbide gas escape disaster that has killed an estimated 25,000 people, damages are near settlement of the sum of US$470m. Last year, the BP Gulf of Mexico oil spill, left 11 dead and facing $20B (uncapped) in damages. Yes, a major environmental legacy, but can or should comparisons really be drawn here?
Mojahed: As a matter of fact, all human beings are equal in the sight of God. There can be no human being who is better than another or whose life is more valuable than that of another unless such a human being has a more valuable human trait. God has made the standard of superiority something available to everybody so that He will not wrong anybody. God is fair and gives us fair treatment. He does not discriminate in favor of or otherwise against anybody of us. One of us will be made superior to us only if he / she has something good which is superior. Thus, everybody of us can be superior for superiority is something attainable and not exclusive to a certain group of people. The same argument applies to lives. Lives are all equal without any discrimination. There can not be lives which are more expensive than others unless they have more human value. Do the American lives have more human value than the Indian ones?
It is of very recent history that Russia threw off the shackles of communism, only to see the emergence of the Oligarchs. Are these transitional extremes to be expected and encouraged?
Mojahed: A stable, long-lasting, durable regime is that involving trustworthy, reliable people brought to power, experts consulted in matters relevant to their fields of expertise, and wide popular participation ensured in the decision making process. Regimes are more likely to hold out if private ownership is available with no intervention on the part of the state machinery except for making the necessary contribution to such fields where there are shortcomings in the private sector performance. Again, a successful regime should take care of and look after all citizens who direly stand in need of such care. The above described regime is that one approved by religion especially Islam. Neither communism nor capitalism is valid under Islam. Unfair is each regime, which abandons the needy and gives the rich a free hand to accumulate considerable wealth at the expense of the poor or otherwise restricts the private ownership of the more hardworking citizens and equates them with the less hardworking citizens. The above instances are rejected by religion. Both are doomed to failure. That is why they are not long-lasting. Therefore, we notice that peoples sometimes try communism and then shift to capitalism and then revert to communism and so on. They will continue to shift from one extreme to the other in the absence of a fairer regime. Accordingly, I expect that these transitional extremes are quite expected.
WikiLeaks and its founder Julian Assange, in the last 18 months has know both notoriety and heroism for the publishing of classified documents, causing applaud and venomous criticism for the same. How can there be such huge divisions in opinions over what it seems the general public want to know?
Mojahed: The answer is quite simple. Not everything the general public want to know is something, which can be made known to everybody especially when this is associated with secrets pertaining to VIPs and even countries.
When unemployment is increasing, pensions are under threat, poverty levels are rising and some (EU) countries are implementing tough austerity measures, how can it possibly be justified that some senior executives are enjoying unparalleled bonuses and handshakes, even from companies with disastrous performance records?
Mojahed: It is my belief that under normal circumstances senior executives or any high ranking officials may enjoy large bonuses in return for their wide experience and brilliant performance, but when unemployment is increasing, pensions are under threat and poverty levels are rising, tough austerity measures should be implemented to ensure striking a balance between the salaries of the senior management staff and the other financial commitments that have to be fulfilled. Thus, a maximum salary measure may be applied in case of emergency to bridge the gap between the high ranking officials and other members of a given society or organization to ensure fair distribution of wealth. Consequently, senior officials can get fair, rewarding salaries but, at the same time, they should not be manifold multiples of those of the junior officers within the same society or organization. This is closer to fairness.
July 10, 2011