Successful international businesses presently face numerous issues besides the financial profits and legality of their operations. It is no longer enough to provide workplaces and sell the products to the public. The mass media, investors, and potential customers analyze the moral side of the large international firms’ management when deciding whether they should be supported. Executives have to balance the available resources, profits and the critical expectations of the public.
This paper will analyze the management styles and methods used by the leaders of Apple, Nike, Walmart, and Amazon companies. The three most essential issues in the business sphere include the ethical climate within the firm, the transparency of its reporting, and the “eco-friendliness” of its activities.
The topic of ethics and moral behavior of the companies’ workers often becomes a central point of the corporate news in the modern world. The increased importance of promoting diversity measures against discrimination of any kind and respecting human rights have caused the businesses to adjust to the new criteria (Pagliaro et al., 2018, p.1). The transformational management approach seems the most appropriate as it is flexible and adaptive to new conditions. It encourages communication between employees and reinforces the vision, objectives, and goals of the companies (Buil et al., 2018, p. 71). Workers may often choose a firm, development direction, and even geographical office location for some large international businesses.
Motivation through strict conservative methods, such as fine or point systems, practiced in transitional management would not be sufficient enough for a company’s maximal productivity level today (Hansen and Pihl-Thingvad, 2018, p. 935). Fitting leadership styles for progressive contemporary society include visionary and pace setter. The former includes leader being an inspirator with ambitious dreams while the latter features executives as examples for the employees to follow (Anderson, 2018, para. 14, 20).
Another critical aspect is fair compensation for the workers that would allow them to meet the basic needs (Fair Labor Association, 2020, p. 1). Several leading world business companies prioritize comfortable working conditions, reasonable compensation, and ethical treatment.
Apple is one of the top technological international firms, carefully watched and analyzed by hundreds of competitors and millions of customers. Its leaders require the following to be included in its Supplier Code of Conduct, “treat workers with dignity and respect, act fairly and ethically, and use environmentally responsible practices” (Apple supplier code of conduct, 2020, para. 1). Including similar lines in any modern company’s documents and educating the employees on the meaning and interpretation of these phrases would make the firm more reputable on the international level. This was necessary to control the business’ reputation as its manufacturing facilities abroad did not always meet the expectations of the management and forced the employees to work overtime without respect and adequate payment.
Another known international brand with ethics issues history is Nike, the world producer of sports clothes, shoes, and accessories. Its accepted official standards state that the company respects human rights in its operations and extended value chain (Nike, n.d.a, para.1). They became particularly necessary after several incidents at the factory in Qingdao, China, that suggested using forced labor at the production site (Nike Inc., n.d., para. 7). Cases similar to that one may cause low demand for the firm’s products due to the unwillingness of potential consumers to buy the goods created in conditions violating fundamental human rights.
Management’s decision to protect not only the original country’s workers but all employees of the company as well may be challenging as international laws could prohibit such practice. However, as the world moves toward globalization, incorporating single ethical standards becomes necessary for many countries (Fair Labor Association, n.d., para. 1). Combating the current unfair laws and practices may be beneficial for both employees and customers in the future as it promotes general ethical relationships between the people.
Walmart, the international sales giant, has also faced moral issues. They included the low wages, encouragement to join the food stamps or welfare programs, and selling guns to the public. Walmart’s management leaders had to adjust to the rising disapproval of its performance morality by increasing the employee payments and removing the arms from the assortment (Cardello, 2019, para. 3). It has expanded maternity benefits for workers and constructed a new Health Center at a store in Georgia. The facility provides urgent care, X-rays, lab testing, primary care, dental and optical care, and hearing services (Cardello, 2019, para. 4).
These steps clearly show that Walmart is concerned not only about the financial profits but doing good for humanity as well. While the management goals may still be focused mainly on economic benefits, it would be impossible to maximize them without addressing the ethical issues concerns of the public. In the end, the customers’ demands affect the set prices and define the company’s profits.
Amazon and its founder, Jeff Bezos, have been discussed in recent years in the context of earning large sums of money and providing the necessary shopping and delivery services during the COVID-19 pandemic. People have criticized the company for the “harsh work culture” as an operating business of such a large volume with the provided speed required impeccable discipline from the workers (Recode, 2016, 00:00:05-00:00:08).
However, Bezos claims that the environment within Amazon encourages pride for good performance and work-life balance. Such attitude, used in transformational management, causes people to apply additional efforts to their responsibilities, which leads to higher production levels (Buil et al., 2018, p.72). Bezos also mentions that the best business can be developed only with happy employees, and that is what his company supports (Recode, 2016, 00:01:35-00:01:40). The firm emphasizes creating a comfortable and productive corporate culture.
Since large profits often lead to greed and corruption issues among the top managers, transparency became an essential factor regarding contemporary businesses. Regarding the revenue, it can be viewed as the starting point into a conflicting conversation between companies (Van Alstine, 2017, p. 4). However, in materials and methods used by the firm, transparency may create a positive reputation for the business on the international level. Global organizations, such as Global Reporting Initiative (GRI), provide standards for the international activity reports to promote transparency (Global Reporting Initiative, n.d., para. 1).
Intelligent leaders understand the consequences of corrupt business behavior on the international level. Unfair financial practices have shaken the reputations of such giants as Enron, WorldCom, and Tesco (This is money, 2020). The result of a revealed bribery affair associated with a particular company could ruin it. Accountability and integrity are inseparable from honest business operating and should be promoted by the management (Transparency International, n.d., para.1). This allows the companies to take responsibility for their environmental and financial impacts.
Apple agreed to reveal the information about the manufacturing stages, including the details regarding conflict minerals usage in production. As a part of the analysis, Apple ran all its refiners through an independent third-party conflict audit program and no longer used those considered dangerous (Investis Digital, 2018, para. 8). This open step toward safer production had a positive effect on the company’s reputation. Since the international laws and regulations change at a high rate in today’s world, it would be reasonable for a large company to hire professional lawyers. Their function is to track all the existing and emerging requirements and ensure that the company follows them.
In Nike’s case, transparency issues were raised regarding their production geography details. Moving the factories abroad may seem a logical strategy for the corporate managers, but the clients often need additional explanations. For example, American customers may become discouraged from using the firm’s products if they find that the factory in India for their brand contributes to a dirty environment and low hourly wages. The company admitted the importance of this issue and provided a detailed interactive map with production locations, descriptions, and workers’ information (Nike, 2020, para.1). This decision increased the trust of the customers as they now can acquire detailed information about the firm if needed.
One of the factors that needs to be addressed is the difference in currency value of different countries. What would be an unacceptably low salary in northern Europe could be a decent payment in southeast Asia, enough to provide for a family of four. Other controversial issues, such as child labor or longer than eight-hour work shifts, also have to be considered individually for each business and country. The reason for such problems is often in the poverty of the country and the financial needs of the local families (World Vision, n.d., para. 2). Managers and leaders have to carefully analyze all the available information about the laws and customer’s opinions regarding such practices. In some risky cases, the appropriate education of employees and customers through lectures, conferences, and advertisement campaigns are necessary.
Walmart decided to reveal more details about its manufacturing process through a detailed report. The document is publicly available and includes information on the chemical use and other details in the production process (Walmart, 2016, p. 3). For Amazon, being open about its logistics also means providing better services for the customers (Masters, 2019, para. 2). The company chose to combine each product it sells with a “transparency code” explaining the details to the potential buyer. Such an approach also allows Amazon to discourage counterfeiters (Masters, 2019, para. 2). Overall, transparency often leads to finding bottlenecks and making the production process efficient.
With world consumerism growing with each year and pollutions being one of the most discussed topics internationally, become “eco-friendly” is a focus of numerous business companies today. The World Economic Forum places sustainability among the main goals for international businesses in the coming years (Elci, 2021, para. 13). “Green” models of business operating, such as the Doughnut economics, promote considering the environmental impact of the firm’s activities and well-being of the employees and customers (Raworth, n.d., para. 1). This puts pressure on businesses to focus their management on the balance and safe outcomes instead of financial benefits.
The start-ups and successful, established companies alike have to include environmental concerns in their planning. Apple is striving to become totally carbon-neutral by 2030, meaning that all their production sites and corporate institutions will be using 100% renewable electricity and invest in ecological projects (Apple supplier code of conduct, 2020, p. 3). Nike is publicly committed to achieving “zero carbon and zero waste” (Nike, n.d.b, para. 1).
Walmart had changed its direction toward the “greener” one by setting a long-term goal of using 100% renewable energy, aiming for 50% by 2025 (Cardello, 2019, para. 4). Amazon strives for carbon neutrality and decreasing the impact of its operations on the environment (Smithers, 2020, para. 3). Leaders of international businesses realize that maintaining the balance between being profitable and supporting the “green” movements essential for the firms’ success. All the mentioned companies help their consumers stay informed about the ecologically supportive choices they can make through using particular goods and services.
In addition, businesses could use their “green” policies and strategies for advertisements or new product presentations. That is trendy today, so the public is likely to be interested in environmentally friendly products. However, that also means that people will investigate all the provided materials, and the company’s research and conclusions have to be firmly supported by facts and science. The positive effect of the “green” trend is the general awareness about the ecological problems in the world. People start to save water, opt to walk instead of driving a car, or donate the money for environmental research. Although this may not be sufficient to eliminate all the pollution problems, the small steps add to the overall situation.
In order to gain and maintain a successful position in the modern international business field, the companies’ management cannot focus solely on profits. Today’s concerns of the public and international trade organizations include ethical treatment of the employees, transparency of the firm’s operations, and “eco-friendliness” of its activities. Apple, Nike, Walmart, and Amazon address the mentioned issues in their daily operations, which helps them maintain leaders in their spheres.
Management has to stay flexible and prepared for last-minute changes. While financial benefits are likely to remain present in business plans, modern society requires a transformational management style that supports human rights, moral standards, and a clean environment.
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