Ethical issues develop when environmental regulations in a host nation are less than the home nation. Developed nations have established many regulations regarding pollution, where as developing nations often lack regulations. Lack of regulations often causes developing country’s to experience higher levels of pollution. Nigeria, the most populous country in Africa, is a country whose people have experienced environmental problems because foreign multinationals are allowed to operate their businesses while committing human rights violations. In the case study, Shell and Nigerian Oil, by William Newberry and Thomas N Gladwin, Royal Dutch/Shell Group the largest foreign oil producer in Africa has been publically criticized for extracting oil from ethnic communities such the Ogoni people living near the Nigerian River Delta. The once fertile land served as a major source of food for the highly populated region, but was turned into a waste land full of pollution and land degradation caused by the company’s production of oil. In his paper I will discuss role that the people of Nigeria faced and will discuss how a relativist, universalist, Donaldson, Smith, Friedman, Marx and Bowie would view ethical or unethical role that the Shell Oil Company’s played in the situation.
In the early 1990’s several ethnic groups in Nigeria peacefully protested against big oil companies who caused pollution in their communities. The country’s military dictatorship took action against them and killed 80 people. A few years later when the people living in the Ogoni region protested to stop contactors from laying a new pipeline for Shell, Nigeria’s Mobile Police Force killed over 2000 people. Critics argued that Shell was partly to blame for the killings but they never accepted responsibility.
According to the concept of ethical relativism, what is ethical or unethical is judged in the light of local moral standards and vary from country to country. Ethical Relativism’s rule is, “when in Rome do as the Romans do.” This means that companies can adopt ethical codes of conduct governed strictly by local ethical standards and then believe that it is a sufficient guide for conducting their behavior. A relativist would argue that Royal Dutch/Shell Oil Group adapted to the culture they were in while operating their business in Nigeria, so this would mean that their behavior was justifiably ethical.
Ever since the company began its oil production in the Niger Delta region in the late 1950’ the company received support from local government to suppress opposition of oil drilling, from local people. It wasn’t unusual for the government to use deadly force on these protesters. In fact, some argue that it was the protestors who were responsible for the oil spills that related to the problem of pollution in the region. A relativist would point out that it would be normal for the Royal Dutch/Shell Oil Group to operate their business in Nigeria under the government’s...