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Published in: Asian Journal of Business Ethics 1/2019

23-03-2019

Perspectives on business ethics in the Japanese tradition: implications for global understanding of the role of business in society

Authors: Jessica McManus Warnell, Toru Umeda

Published in: Asian Journal of Business Ethics | Issue 1/2019

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Abstract

The paper explores conceptual approaches to business ethics from the Japanese tradition and their potential to enhance our global approach to social and environmental sustainability, including discussion of a framework for understanding the embeddedness of the business in society. As globalization and economic and sociopolitical challenges proliferate, the nature of the connections between the USA and Asia is more important than ever. Following an expressed “pivot” or “rebalance” to Asia and the current nebulous alliances, we hope to raise the profile of Japan’s potential to shape the conception and practice of business in society. We explore attempts to offer a universal business ethic, intended as guidance for businesses globally, and examine contributions of Japanese thought to these frameworks. Considering the traditional approaches of sanpoyoshi, or tri-directional (buyer, seller, and societal) welfare in business transactions, kyosei, which can mean “living and working together for the common good”, and mottainai, or “grateful and sustainable consumption,” the research explores the relationships between the private sector, government, and civil society. Further, we examine the related notion of moralogy, which has been described as a virtue-based stakeholder approach to business. We suggest that these concepts merit promoting the conception of the “homo socio-economicus” model to replace the prevailing “homo economicus” model that threatens what sound business should be. Through interviews with Japanese scholars and practitioners and exploration of Japanese cultural traditions, we present an overview of these approaches. With this perspective, we cite the case of the Tōhoku earthquake and Fukushima nuclear disaster as one illustrative example. We hope that this understanding of the embeddedness of business in society based on Japanese traditions and experience can contribute to a global conception of the role of business in society, relevant to the USA as well. Our goals are to contribute to existing discussions of Japanese business ethics and relevance to a global perspective, and to inspire ongoing exploration of applications of these ideas in teaching and scholarship.
Footnotes
1
As of this writing, the TPP is defunct, due to the USA’s withdrawal of their signature, and has been renegotiated by the remaining partners as the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership, enforced beginning 30 December 2018.
 
2
The Principles include the following: respect stakeholders beyond shareholders; contribute to economic, social, and environmental development; build trust by going beyond the letter of the law; respect rules and conventions; support responsible globalization; respect the environment; and avoid illicit activities.
 
3
Thus, “The UN Global Compact asks companies to embrace, support, and enact, within their sphere of influence, a set of core values:
Principle 1: businesses should support and respect the protection of internationally proclaimed human rights; and
Principle 2: make sure that they are not complicit in human rights abuses.
Principle 3: businesses should uphold the freedom of association and the effective recognition of the right to collective bargaining;
Principle 4: the elimination of all forms of forced and compulsory labor;
Principle 5: the effective abolition of child labor; and
Principle 6: the elimination of discrimination in respect of employment and occupation.
Principle 7: businesses should support a precautionary approach to environmental challenges;
Principle 8: undertake initiatives to promote greater environmental responsibility; and
Principle 9: encourage the development and diffusion of environmentally friendly technologies.
Principle 10: businesses should work against corruption in all its forms, including extortion and bribery.” (UN Global Compact 2000)
 
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Metadata
Title
Perspectives on business ethics in the Japanese tradition: implications for global understanding of the role of business in society
Authors
Jessica McManus Warnell
Toru Umeda
Publication date
23-03-2019
Publisher
Springer Netherlands
Published in
Asian Journal of Business Ethics / Issue 1/2019
Print ISSN: 2210-6723
Electronic ISSN: 2210-6731
DOI
https://doi.org/10.1007/s13520-019-00087-2

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