I was attending our Managing International Talent class. The topic was of Canadian businesses expanding overseas and encountering standards different to our own - which one do we use? What about ethics?
I gave the following (real) example. A famous language school teaching English in Canada has opened a branch in one of the oil rich Middle East nations. Now in Canada, when we hire someone, we don't care whether the person is black or white, male or female - we just care whether he or she can speak good English, teach it, and hold proper credentials. Not so in this country. There, it's quite common to see recruitment ads specifying ethnicity, gender etc.
In that Arab nation, almost all English language schools hire white Anglo-Saxons to teach English (even if they are Irish!) because the local students can never properly accept a brown skinned teacher (someone beneath them) teaching English.
So I asked this question to the class: Should the class also hire by color and ethnicity, because it makes good business sense?
The lecturer's reply to me was memorable.
"No matter how low the ethical standards of a country are, we cannot imagine that they will always stay that way. To do that is to undermine the basic human nature of self improvement. We have to believe that someone, somewhere, will say no, to judge a candidate by their skin colour is wrong, and so on. We have to believe that things will eventually improve in that country and they will also start to hire by competency and pretty soon everyone in that country will do that."
"In this school we teach you to be leaders. Everyone can be a follower and make money in the short term. Here, we teach you to innovate, to be leaders, to be the force of change. And so I would suggest that if you were running that school, you should hire by competency and uphold the Canadian standards, which were higher. Because - ultimately they will follow those standards, and then you would have been the leader in setting standards, not following them. There is always a business case to be made for ethics."