A complication for the debate about whether to apply home countrystandards in host countries is that multinational corporations engagein business across national boundaries in different ways. Some MNCsdirectly employ workers in multiple countries, while otherscontract with suppliers in multiple countries. Nike, for example, doesnot directly employ workers to make shoes. Rather, Nike designs shoes,and hires firms in other countries to make them. Our views aboutwhether an MNC should apply home country standards in a host countrymay depend on whether the MNC is applying them to its own workers or tothose of other firms. The same goes for accountability. MNCs,especially in consumer-facing industries, are often held responsiblefor poor working conditions in their suppliers’ factories. Nikewas subject to sharp criticism for the labor practices of itssuppliers in the 1990s (Hartman et al. 2003). Our views about theextent of the MNC’s responsibility may depend on whether theproblematic practices exist in the MNC’s own factories or inthose of its suppliers.
Some organizations “do business”—in the sense ofexchange a good or service for valuable consideration—with thegoal of seeking profit, and some do not. Merck and Wal-Mart areexamples of the first type organization; Princeton University and theMetropolitan Museum of Art are examples of the second. Businessethicists sometimes concern themselves with the activities ofnon-profit organizations, but more commonly focus on for-profitorganizations. Indeed, most people probably understand businesses asfor-profit organizations.