The importance of ethics in regard to international trade has been much on my mind in recent months. Our Prime Minister is endeavouring to persuade Saudi Arabia not to use our substantial arms exports to further the conflict in Yemen; President Xi of China has made it very clear that even the merest hint of criticism will not be tolerated; President Erdoğan of Turkey speaks of possible free trade agreements with the UK while taking an authoritarian stance towards political opponents in his own country; and most recently a difference of opinion (to put it mildly) has arisen between the UK and the USA concerning certain tweets by President Trump: and all of this at a time when the realisation of the UK’s international trading ambitions depends in large measure upon goodwill between the UK and such countries as I have mentioned.
Against this backdrop it is appropriate to ask how such world events relate to the ethical trading status of our members and SMEs in general in the UK. For my part the situation is clear. If I were to work in, say, Uzbekistan on a project financed entirely by external funds the fact that the Uzbek Government’s conduct is anything but ethical would not have any direct bearing on the business profit that I would derive from working there. However if my consulting activities were to be financed directly by the Uzbek Government or by a company based in the country whose trading activities cannot readily be detached from the situation there, then I would have to deem such consulting activity itself to be unethical. My advice to anyone who trades, whether locally or internationally, is very simple: by all means give your trading partners the benefit of the doubt but remember always the old proverb that there is no smoke without fire.
Stuart Brown – Ethics & Sustainability