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Ethical Codes of Conduct: Protecting Female Global Workers or Corporate Profits?
Stockholm University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Stockholm Business School.
2004 (English)Conference paper, Abstract (Refereed)
Abstract [en]

Consequences of multinational corporations outsourcing production to low-cost countries and the development of global consumption, are not affecting women in the “Western World” and in the “Third World” equally. Alison Jaggar argues, in “Globalizing Feminist Ethics”, that issues concerning the fairness of globalization often make Western feminists “uncomfortable”, since “discussion may reveal that most Westerners are on the wrong rather than the right side of the moral divide” (Jaggar, 1998, p. 24).


The connection between ethical codes of conduct in Western corporations and the situation for female workers at Third World suppliers form a complex set of concerns. The purpose of this paper is to analyze the mode of “relatedness” (Jochimsen, 2003, p. 239) assumed in the discussions of ethical codes of conduct and their ability to protect low paid, female workers globally.


Studies have investigated why and how Swedish low-price companies in retail trading, with their own trademarks, are communicating their ethical commitment (Fernholm & Fernström, 2002). Companies have a desire to put forward a trustworthy "corporate-citizen" image, they hope to achieve this by linking ethical and social responsibility, emphasized in establishing and implementing ethical codes of conduct, to the business mission and strengthening the corporate image. The textile industry is typical for an early outsourcing of Western companies´ production to low-cost countries and the industry has also established ethical codes of conduct at an early stage. Many of the workers are uneducated women with maintenance liability for children and family. Many researchers would maintain that the fact that female workers globally enter the paid working force, automatically enhance their position in society, but Charusheela (2003) questions this common assumption that paid work necessarily gives more power to women.


Supporting the Western way of life in itself may build a moral divide between women in industrialized countries and women in developing countries. To address this divide, stakeholders in the West put pressure on Western companies to prove their ethical and social responsibility. Card states that “luck renders moral responsibility” (1996, p. 22).  This perspective is optimistic on Westerners intentions in demanding more social responsible of themselves as citizens, consumers and employees and in articulating critique of governmental and corporate agents in society. But who are ethical codes of conduct established for in the first place; for the protection of female global workers or of corporate profits? Drawing on thought in feminist philosophy, this project demonstrates the relevance of such thought in the broader sphere of work.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Keyword [en]
communication of ethics, ethical codes of conduct, female global workers, low-income countries, social responsibility, Third World, Western World
National Category
Social Sciences
Research subject
Business Administration
URN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-110739OAI: diva2:772774
International Association of Women Philosophers (IAPh) Annual Conference, Gothenburg: Gothenburg University, June 17-19, 2004.
Available from: 2014-12-17 Created: 2014-12-17 Last updated: 2014-12-17

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