Journal of Business Ethics (2011) 103:497–509 DOI 10.1007/s10551-011-0885-y
Ó Springer 2011
Business Ethics Should Study Illicit Businesses: To Advance Respect for Human Rights
Edmund F. Byrne
ABSTRACT. Business ethics should include illicit businesses as targets of investigation. For, though such businesses violate human rights they have been largely ignored by business ethicists. It is time to surmount this indifference in view of recent international efforts to define illicit businesses for regulatory purposes. Standing in the way, however, is a meta-ethical question as to whether any business can be declared unqualifiedly immoral. In support of an affirmative answer I address a number of counter-indications by comparing approaches to organized crime and to corporate crime, comparing the ethical critique of businesses studied in business ethics and those socially banned, and comparing the business ethics assumption as to businesses’ ethicality to societal ethical neutrality regarding war-related businesses. My conclusion: to help advance respect for human rights, business ethicists should apply their expertise to the task of defining illicit businesses. KEY WORDS: illicit business, human rights, UNGC, corporate crime, organized crime, international law, corporate social responsibility
institutions, including the UN, have been clarifying the issues at stake. In 1988 the UN issued a Convention Against Illicit Trafﬁc in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances; and its International Drug Control Program (UNIDCP) has been monitoring the steady growth in this area. In 2000, the UN devised common language to describe illicit trade and shortly thereafter other international bodies formulated standards to address ´ some of these (Naım, 2005, p. 5). Speciﬁcally,
The UN General Assembly in 2000 passed a convention against international organized crime, with a protocol against ‘‘Smuggling of Migrants By Land, Sea, and Air’’ and another to ‘‘Prevent, Suppress, and...