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  • Explain what is bribery, corruption and its link to ethics.
  • Examine bribery and corruption using ethical relativism. Can such practices be seen as part of a nation’s culture? If so what are the implications.
  • Contrast bribery and corruption from the perspective of consequentialism, deontology and virtue ethics and how a manager would use to explain, defend or refute the practice.
  • Contrast the Australian legislation that addresses the bribery of foreign officials with at least 1 other country’s approach.
  • Based on the above discussion, draw your own conclusions as to whether you believe bribery and corruption is or is not ethical.

Meaning of Bribery and Corruption

Business ethics refers to the study of the business policies along with practices in regard to such issues like corporate governance, bribery and discrimination. Law plays an important role in guiding the business ethics and it helps in providing basic framework that the business can follow so that they can gain public acceptance (Hodges & Steinholtz, 2018). This essay elaborates on the meaning of bribery and corruption and how it is linked to ethics. It expounds on the meaning of bribery along with corruption by making use of ethical relativism. This essay contrasts bribery from corruption from the viewpoint of consequentialism and deontology. It contrasts how the Australian legislation treats bribery with the approach of another country.

Bribery refers to the act by which an individual gives or receives something valuable by exchanging it with something in return which the recipient would not alter otherwise. It means the soliciting of an item that has value so that it can influence the action of another person who is in charge of the public. A bribe can be said to be a gift that is bestowed on another individual so that it can influence the conduct of the recipient. A bribe can be in the form of money, good, property, privilege or it can be a promise that can influence an action. According to Pearson (2017), corruption can be said to be a form pertaining to dishonesty that is carried out by a person who is put on a position of authority so that he can get illicit benefit Corruption can include various kinds of activities like bribery along with embezzlement and it can also involve legal practices in various countries. Corruption can occur on different kinds of scales. It can range from small favours in between a small group of the people to the corruption that can affect government on that of a large scale. It can be argued that corruption along with crime can be said to be sociological occurrences that occur in regular frequency in various countries in different degree. Bribery can exert undue influence over an official. It can be a government or a corporate official and it is offered so that an individual will be able to get favour from the official.  It can hence be stated that bribery is an undue influence as it can have an effect on the process of decision making of officials (Guitián, 2015). Bribery can be said to be unethical as the process of decision making would not be on the basis of standard of the quality. Bribery can be stated to go against the norms of ethics as the normal standards along with procedures are not being followed in case of a bribery. However, bribery cannot be detected easily as it does not necessitate any kind of written agreement as it is held to be an arrangement that takes place under table. There are negative implications associated with bribery and bribery is carried out in a manner so that no document can be traced at a later stage. Corruption can be said to be integrally related to ethics as it involves the misuse pertaining to public power for the sake of private gain (Wang, Cheney & Roper, 2016) Corruption can be said to be decay in the process of decision making and a decision maker deviates from the criterion that should rule the decision making process of an individual. Corruption is hence unethical as it goes against the ethical norms and can prove to be harmful for the functioning of the society.

Ethical Relativism and Bribery

Ethical relativism refers to the theory which holds morality to be relative to norms in relation to one’s culture. Ascertaining whether an action is right or wrong is dependent on moral norms of society within which it is practised. An action can be morally right for one person and it can be morally wrong for another person. An ethical relativist believes that there exist no universal moral standard in the society. There are managers who take recourse to bribery when they are working in the foreign countries for securing the contracts. Moral absolutism indicates that there exist moral principles that are universal which helps in judging the actions of a person. Moral absolutism contrast with the idea of moral relativism that does not acknowledge the fact that there are absolute moral value within the society. According to Grant, Arjoon & McGhee (2017), bribery along with corruption falls under the ambit of moral absolutism as these practices can be said to be universally unethical Bribery can prove to be injurious for the growth of the society and it is detrimental for the progress of the nation. Such practices cannot be said to be a part of culture of any nation as it can harm the fabric of the society. Corruption can cripple the growth of a nation and they should not be tolerated in any nation. The implications of such kind of devious practice would be that it would harm the growth of an organisation and jeopardise the nation as a whole. The giving of gifts can help an individual in obtaining political support within the society. It can be stated that there is a thin line between gift and bribery and bribery is injurious as it can take away the opportunity from one person and give it to another person. There are certain cultures that necessitates the presenting of a gift when a request is being made to another person. Educated people in the present age construe certain gifts as bribery and it can be stated that the point at which a gift takes the form of a bribe can be said to be hazy. However, the business that are trading in the emerging economies have to face the dilemma of whether they are going to pay the bribe or stop trading within the market (Crane & Matten, 2016.) There are various countries that hold bribery to be a accepted component in relation to doing business. There are many companies that hold it to be a part of local custom. It is however essential to have uniform laws and practices that can help an organisation in being transparent that can merit it in the long run.

Consequentialism and Bribery

Consequentialism refers to normative ethical theories that states that the results of one’s behaviour can act as the ultimate basis in relation to judgement regarding rightness or wrongness in relation to a conduct. The consequentialism standpoint holds that an act that is morally right can produce good consequence. According to Carroll & Buchholtz (2014), globalization has contributed in making the act of bribery to be competitively advantageous for a country. Bribery can help a firm in gaining entry within a market and it can have negative effect on that of corporate governance. Corporate corruption on the other hand harms the reputation of a firm and it has a negative effect on the morale of the employees in an organization. Bribery can have an effect on the operations of a firm across the four dimensions: external business relation, interacting with regulators, reputation of public and morale of employees in an organization. Corruption on the other hand can have negative impact on the performance of a firm along with economic aspect pertaining to the economies (Shaw, 2016).


Deontology is considered to be “rule-based” approach in relation to ethics and it states that one should not bring good results but people should make use of proper means and they should act with a good intention. People can develop moral principle by exercising the faculty of reason in the society. Deontology thus goes against the vein of consequentialism as it lays stress on the means instead of the results which is emphasized by consequentialism. In the event of someone bribing an individual one has to make a decision regarding whether to accept the bribe or not. A human being can make his own decision and in the event of being threatened by another individual one finds it hard to decide. According to deontology, this is morally wrong so bribery cannot be accepted in the society. The meaning that is attached to a particular act can vary from one culture to another. A particular culture can think of offering an item that has economic worth to be a bribe whereas it can be thought of as a gift by people belonging to another culture (Sampath & Rahman, 2018).  Corruption does not pass the welfare-based ethical perspective and the utilitarian scholars believe that an action can be morally permissible only if the consequences give rise to more benefit as compared to cost. Corruption cannot give rise to “greater good” because it can be said to be an equilibrium that lacks the aspect of pareto efficiency. According to Kolk (2016), pareto efficiency takes place when the individuals reach an outcome that can give rise to greatest possible good. Corruption fails in meeting virtue-based stipulation in relation to a just society. It is on the basis of self-interest and an individual can commit an act that is corrupt but it makes use of another person as means that can help in meeting an end. Corruption can hence be stated to be unethical as it is not possible to make it a universal rule and corruption devalues the human beings. Corruption can never be ethically impressible and it is unethical irrespective of the consequences owing to the relationship that it builds between the humans (Trevino & Nelson, 2016).

Deontology and Bribery


The bribing of a foreign official will be put under s 70.2 in the event of having relevant connection with that of Australia. The connection can be established under that of s 70.5 in the event of the conduct constituting alleged offence takes place wholly or partially within Australia. In the event of bribery being committed by that of a subsidiary company which is incorporated within foreign jurisdiction the parent company of Australia will be liable under some circumstances (Dunfee & Donaldson, 2017). The reach of the Australian legislation can be said to be wide and it is similar to anti-bribery provision in US along with UK. Liability can be said to be cumulative and the individuals and the corporations can be held liable under that of multiple jurisdiction in the form of different laws. There are cross-border cooperation between the regulators so that they can enforce the anti-bribery laws. The US Foreign Corrupt Practices Act can be said to be a widely enforced anti-corruption law. According to Weiss (2014), it introduces the factor of corporate liability as contrast to that of bribery laws prevailing in Australia. The company along with the person would be civilly responsible in relation to the corruption offences that are committed abroad. The anti-bribery provision can be said to be applied to three categories called issuers, entity under the territorial jurisdiction and the domestic concern. However these provisions prohibit the foreign persons along with business working within the US territory from making of corrupt payment to the foreign officials for retaining business. There are narrow exception pertaining to the facilitation payments. Exception is applied to the payments pertaining to foreign officials that has a purpose of facilitating routine governmental action.


A particular act can be right for an individual and it can be wrong from the point of view of another individual. Managers give bribes so that they can get contracts when working within the foreign countries. There are certain universal moral principles in the society that can judge the actions of an individual. On the basis of moral absolutism it can be stated that practices like bribery along with corruption is unethical. Bribery and corruption cannot be said to be ethical as it goes against the moral norms of the individuals in the society. Bribery can harm the society and it can act as a deterrent for the development of a nation. Bribery cannot be said to be a part of culture as it can be injurious for the growth of society. Corruption can stall the growth of a nation and it would prove to be detrimental for the human beings in the long run. Deontology highlights the fact that one’s means should be noble and proper irrespective of the consequences. Moral principles can be developed by making use of reason within the society and it can help an individual in staying true to business ethics.

References:

Carroll, A., & Buchholtz, A. (2014). Business and society: Ethics, sustainability, and stakeholder management. Nelson Education.

Crane, A., & Matten, D. (2016). Business ethics: Managing corporate citizenship and sustainability in the age of globalization. Oxford University Press.

Dunfee, T. W., & Donaldson, T. J. (2017). Untangling the corruption knot: global bribery viewed through the lens of integrative social contract theory. The Blackwell guide to business ethics, 61-76.

Grant, P., Arjoon, S., & McGhee, P. (2017). Reconciling Ethical Theory and Practice: Toward Developing a Business Ethics Pedagogical Model. Business and Professional Ethics Journal, 36(1), 41-65.

Guitián, G. (2015). Service as a bridge between ethical principles and business practice: A Catholic social teaching perspective. Journal of Business Ethics, 128(1), 59-72.

Hodges, C., & Steinholtz, R. (2018). Ethical Business Practice and Regulation: A Behavioural and Values-based Approach to Compliance and Enforcement. Bloomsbury Publishing.

Kolk, A. (2016). The social responsibility of international business: From ethics and the environment to CSR and sustainable development. Journal of World Business, 51(1), 23-34.

Pearson, R. (2017). Business ethics as communication ethics: Public relations practice and the idea of dialogue. In Public relations theory (pp. 111-131). Routledge.

Sampath, V. S., & Rahman, N. (2018). Bribery in MNEs: The Dynamics of Corruption Culture Distance and Organizational Distance to Core Values. Journal of Business Ethics, 1-19.

Shaw, W. H. (2016). Business ethics: A textbook with cases. Nelson Education.

Trevino, L. K., & Nelson, K. A. (2016). Managing business ethics: Straight talk about how to do it right. John Wiley & Sons.

Wang, Y., Cheney, G., & Roper, J. (2016). Virtue Ethics and the Practice–Institution Schema: An Ethical Case of Excellent Business Practices. Journal of business ethics, 138(1), 67-77.

Weiss, J. W. (2014). Business ethics: A stakeholder and issues management approach. Berrett-Koehler Publishers.

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