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Universalism Versus Relativism in Corporate Social Responsibility

Universalism and relativism describe the two mutually contradicting moral perspectives that arise in connection with cultural issues. The universalist position states that the same ethical and moral codes apply globally regardless of local cultural differences. This viewpoint is enshrined in documents like the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which insists that everyone should receive the same protections regardless of location. Conversely, relativists maintain that right or wrong depends on local cultural norms. They often regard the universalist position, which has its roots in Western history, as a form of cultural imperialism. From their perspective, the concept of universal human rights is a Western social construct that should not be imposed on other countries. The disagreements between relativists and universalists typically involve specific, culturally sensitive issues. While few relativists would question the immorality of theft or murder, topics such as women’s rights or tolerance for homosexuality often invite controversy between the two perspectives. Whereas universalists would insist that women’s or minorities’ rights should be supported identically regardless of culture, relativists tend to defend local norms.

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The concept of corporate social responsibility requires businesses to develop a moral stand. It is not enough for them to obey laws, as they must also make proactive ethical decisions on how to support communities that go beyond legal compliance (Soydan & Satkeen, 2018). In the context of globalization, companies are forced to interact with cultural diversity, which can sometimes manifest in deeply rooted disagreements on fundamental social values. As a result, their executives must choose between universalism and relativism when deciding how to approach complex moral issues. For example, when operating in countries that criminalize homosexuality, a company must decide whether to prioritize local laws and norms over universal moral codes. It can adapt local cultural values, supporting public initiatives that advance them. Alternately, it can work to reinforce universal human rights and organizations that advocate for equality. Either decision is controversial, but avoiding the question is not compatible with corporate social responsibility, which implies a holistic commitment to society’s betterment.

Reference

Soydan, S., & Satkeen, A. (2018). Is corporate social responsibility always a function of good management? Academy of Management Proceedings, 2018(1), 11219 [PDF document]. Web.

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StudyCorgi. (2022, January 14). Universalism Versus Relativism in Corporate Social Responsibility. Retrieved from https://studycorgi.com/universalism-versus-relativism-in-corporate-social-responsibility/

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StudyCorgi. (2022, January 14). Universalism Versus Relativism in Corporate Social Responsibility. https://studycorgi.com/universalism-versus-relativism-in-corporate-social-responsibility/

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StudyCorgi. "Universalism Versus Relativism in Corporate Social Responsibility." January 14, 2022. https://studycorgi.com/universalism-versus-relativism-in-corporate-social-responsibility/.

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StudyCorgi. 2022. "Universalism Versus Relativism in Corporate Social Responsibility." January 14, 2022. https://studycorgi.com/universalism-versus-relativism-in-corporate-social-responsibility/.

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StudyCorgi. (2022) 'Universalism Versus Relativism in Corporate Social Responsibility'. 14 January.

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