The ethics of big business

Alexander Lukashenko, the president of Belarus since 1994, has been criticised for his authoritarian rule.

"He who sups with the Devil should have a long spoon" is an English saying, first mentioned by the great English author Geoffrey Chaucer in the 14th Century.

In other words, if you accept the hospitality of the somebody of dubious morality, beware. Stay at a distance and mind your back.

It is a saying that applies to global companies which operate in nations which are run by dictators, where corruption may be rife and human rights undefended.

There is a fine line between turning a profit and having your reputation damaged by association. At what point should a company pull out?

Alexander Lukashenko, the president of Belarus since 1994, has been called Europe's last dictator - criticised for the way the media has been muzzled and dissent has been suppressed.

It is often hard to get managers to discuss this kind of issue - but Business Daily has been talking to the steel trading and distribution group, Stemcor, which has been operating for some years in Belarus.

However, recently the EU has stepped up diplomatic contacts with Belarus since the authorities in Minsk released political prisoners last year. The EU also suspended a travel ban it had imposed on Mr Lukashenko and other top Belarussian officials.

Should company bosses as individuals, take a moral stance, when they decide where to invest, or who to work with?

Sir Raymond Lygo is the former chief executive of British Aerospace. He helped to negotiate the biggest arms deal in history, the controversial Al Yamamah arms deal with Saudi Arabia, which has been dogged with allegations that bribes were paid to members of the Saudi royal family and government officials.

Sir Raymond has always said there'd been "nothing untoward" about the arms deal.


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