3.3 Kantian Theory

Ethics Theory
Business Practice
3.3 Kantian Theory – Part Three
Kantian Ethics Theory Applied to Labour
Standards in Offshore Production
• to describe how Kantian theory can be applied
to evaluate the ethicality of employment
practices in an offshore production scenario
• transfer of manufacturing and assembly
operations to the developing world
• lower costs
• less-stringent labour laws
• outsource production to specialist factory
potential benefits of offshoring
for consumers
for shareholders
for employees in developing nations
for local economy in developing nations
for communities in developing nations
some criticisms of labour standards in
offshored operations
low pay
long hours
harsh management
poor health and safety standards
no job security
no employee representation
(Klein, 2001)
applying Kantian theory to identify
corporate responsibilities in relation to
• identifying imperfect duty
• identifying perfect duty
identifying imperfect duty
• what sentiments might the company’s
managers want other people to show towards
them and their company?
• those managers have an imperfect duty to
develop these sentiments in their company
and express them towards others
identifying perfect duty: applying the
three formulas of the categorical
1. the formula of universal law
2. the formula of the end in itself
3. the formula of universal acceptability
1. applying the formula of universal
ask five questions:
• Question 1: what is the company trying to
achieve by its action?
• Question 2: what is the maxim upon which it is
• Question 3: what would universal adoption of
that maxim consist of?
• Question 4: what would be the eventual result of
universal adoption of that maxim?
• Question 5: how would this affect the company‘s
success in achieving what it is trying to achieve?
2. applying the formula of the end in
• is the company treating its employees purely
as a means to an end, or is it also treating
them as an end in their own right?
• what might treating employees as an end in
their own right consist of?
3. applying the formula of universal
• the ‘New York Times test’ (Trevino and Nelson,
2004: 99)
• would the company’s decision-makers be
happy for information about labour standards
in their offshored operations to appear in the
national newspaper?
theory in practice
Rana Plaza: a disaster waiting to happen
key points
• Kant offers practical rules that can be used to
identify perfect duty in business scenarios
• Kant also encourages us to think about our
imperfect duty to encourage certain
sentiments in business
• the emphasis that Kant places on freedom
highlights the desirability of businesspeople
making their own reason-based decisions
about ethics
Klein, N. (2001) No Logo. London: Harper
Trevino, L.K. and Nelson, K.A. (2004) Managing
Business Ethics: Straight Talk About How To Do It
Right (3rd edn). Hoboken, NJ: Wiley.

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