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Discourse Ethics and Social Accountability - The Ethics of SA 8000

Dirk Ulrich Gilbert

University of Hamburg; University of Erlangen-Nürnberg

Andreas Rasche

Copenhagen Business School

August 2, 2010

Business Ethics Quarterly, Vol. 17, No. 2, pp. 187-216, 2007

Based on theoretical insights of discourse ethics as developed by Jürgen Habermas, we delineate a proposal to further develop the institutionalization of social accounting in multinational corporations (MNCs) by means of “Social Accountability 8000” (SA 8000). To reach this research goal we proceed in four steps. First, we discuss the cornerstones of Habermas’s discourse ethics and elucidate how and why this concept can provide a theoretical justification of the moral point of view in MNCs. In a second step, the basic conception, main purpose, and implementation procedure of SA 8000 are presented. In the third section, we critically examine SA 8000 from a Habermasian perspective and discuss advantages and drawbacks of the initiative. Fourth, to address these drawbacks, we introduce a “discourse-ethically” extended version of SA 8000. We show that this approach is theoretically well-founded and able to overcome some of the current deficits of the certification initiative. We demonstrate that the extended version of SA 8000 can be successfully applied on a cross-cultural basis and that our findings have significant implications for other international ethics initiatives.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 54

Keywords: corporate responsibility, discourse ethics, Habermas, SA8000, ethical supply chain management

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Date posted: August 3, 2010 ; Last revised: July 15, 2014

Suggested Citation

Gilbert, Dirk Ulrich and Rasche, Andreas, Discourse Ethics and Social Accountability - The Ethics of SA 8000 (August 2, 2010). Business Ethics Quarterly, Vol. 17, No. 2, pp. 187-216, 2007. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1652151

Contact Information

Dirk Ulrich Gilbert (Contact Author)
University of Hamburg ( email )
Allende-Platz 1
Hamburg, 20146
University of Erlangen-Nürnberg ( email )
Andreas Rasche
Copenhagen Business School ( email )
Solbjerg Plads 3
Frederiksberg C, DK - 2000
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