Discourse Ethics and Social Accountability - The Ethics of SA 8000

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

54 Pages Posted: 3 Aug 2010 Last revised: 15 Jul 2014

See all articles by Dirk Ulrich Gilbert

Dirk Ulrich Gilbert

University of Hamburg

Andreas Rasche

Copenhagen Business School

Date Written: August 2, 2010


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.

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

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

Dirk Ulrich Gilbert (Contact Author)

University of Hamburg ( email )

Allende-Platz 1
Hamburg, 20146

Andreas Rasche

Copenhagen Business School ( email )

Solbjerg Plads 3
Frederiksberg C, DK - 2000

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