Business Ethics At The Intersection Of Local And Global Bayer, A Case Study
Business ethics at the intersection of local and global 1
Business ethics at the intersection of local and global
Bayer: Science for a better life
Montclair State University
Business ethics at the intersection of local and global 2
Business ethics at the intersection of local and global
Bayer AG is a global enterprise operating across three independent subgroups and three
service companies with core competencies in the fields of health care, nutrition and high-tech
materials. Through its innovative products and services, Bayer intends to create value that benefits
people and improves the quality of life. Thus, Bayer's three subgroups, Bayer HealthCare, Bayer
CropScience and Bayer MaterialScience, improve people's lives through a broad range of essential
products that help diagnose, prevent and treat diseases; protect crops and enhance yields; and
advance automobile safety and durability. The Bayer Group has its headquarters in Leverkusen,
Germany, but is represented throughout the world by 350 companies, with separate operating
subsidiaries in Pittsburg, PA and Toronto, Ontario. It markets approximately 5,000 products and,
on December 31, 2008, the Group had 108,600 employees worldwide.
Bayer has developed a Corporate Compliance Policy that will guide its activity in pursuing
a competitive, innovative, quality-driven, reliable and fair position in the world market. By
bringing together both company-specific and statutory regulations, the Corporate Compliance
Policy draws on a number of principles that are of particular significance in practice – such as fair
competition, integrity, sustainability, equal opportunity, etc. In addition to the Corporate
Compliance Policy, Bayer has drawn up a Group mission statement that lays out the principles
underlying the company’s corporate strategy. It outlines the corporate philosophy and the
framework for business activity, and it promotes common values and leadership principles as
essential for all employees in their daily work. The values include: a will to succeed; a passion for
all stakeholders; integrity, openness and honesty; respect for people and nature; and the
sustainability of corporate actions.
Reconciling local and global in corporate identity
Business ethics at the intersection of local and global 3
In 2009, Bayer AG was named one of the Top 10 companies for global diversity by
DiversityInc., a business magazine and a news website covering corporate and work place
diversity. The specialists and evaluators at DiversityInc. have commended Bayer’s philosophy and
initiatives that address issues of globalization and diversity, such as valuing different perspectives
and cultures, human rights, cross-cultural training, generational training, etc. Amongst the criteria
that brought Bayer the nomination are training employees and their families to be competent in
foreign cultures, mandatory diversity training, the company’s refusal to do business in countries
that have oppressive political regimes and efforts to change legislation in countries with
questionable values and policies. Bayer thus acknowledges the fact that diversity integration helps
the company to improve its business quality, increase productivity and human potential, and create
a better life for both internal and external constituencies. The global context – business, but
political, social and cultural wise as well – that Bayer is a part of has increased its sensitivity
towards diversity and an extensive range of cultures. According to Featherstone (1995), business
success in global settings is bound to “a shift in the balance of power” (p. 88) away from western
imperialist institutions and the reconstruction of a polycentric world (Beck, 2000, p. 35) that has
flattened previous hierarchies. Time-space geographies have been compressed (Featherstone, p.
93) into one encompassing locality that juxtaposes a myriad of local cultures without applying any
evaluation grid or hierarchical distinctions. And this is indeed the philosophy that supports Bayer’s
global success thus far. Greg Babe, the company’s CEO, when delivering his acceptance speech
for the DiversityInc. award, recognized its centrality: “As a global enterprise, Bayer needs to
understand a complex combination of domestic and foreign customers, markets and customs. We
need to apply dynamic teamwork to big challenges and the more perspectives, the betterquot;
Business ethics at the intersection of local and global 4
One of the key-challenges that Bayer faces, together with all other companies seeking
success on a global scale – is building an identity that recognizes and promotes diversity, but that
maintains coherence and consistency at the same time. Just like Parker (1998), the discursive
efforts companies engage themselves in as part of their identity management strategies need to
have continuity and essence but allow for adaptation to changing circumstances as well.
“Organizations are expected to emphasize their history and continuity while simultaneously
updating and continuously fine-tuning their expressions of identity” (Parker, p. 109). Bayer has
developed a mission statement that applies to all of its three subgroups – despite their functional
independence – because its philosophy and values need to transcend any functional, spatial, or
temporal divisions. Consequently, Bayer’s goals throughout the world are to create an enterprise
that is keenly focused on its customers, its strengths, its potential and the markets of the future: a
top international company renowned for product quality, employee skills, economic performance
and innovative strength, and committed to increasing corporate value and achieving sustained
growth. Playing on a strategy that proves to be discursively ambiguous (Parker, p. 129), the
company’s vision and mission statement leave several grey areas of interpretation so that a
multiplicity of stakeholder categories can generate their own interpretations and an alignment takes
place between stakeholder and corporate values and goals. According to Wally Olin’s
categorization (as cited in Parker, 1998), Bayer has constructed a monolithic corporate identity
when employing one mission statement, one philosophy, and one set of values that run
cross-divisionally and have global validity and application. This way, its publics have an easier
way of identifying it as a distinct and stable organization and the company avoids any type of
schizoid-related identity issues. Because of the need to integrate different and sometimes divergent
cultures and thus touch upon different value systems, choosing a more specific set of principles to
Business ethics at the intersection of local and global 5
guide the company’s business strategy may have ended in conflicts and discrepancies within
corporate identity and undermined stability and success.
Managing ethics globally
Bayer AG defines itself as a socially responsible corporation that takes into account the
economical, ecological, and social dimension of its business. Consequently, it has incorporated
ethics as a key value in the corporate mission statement, with an acknowledgement and acceptance
of its role as a socially and ethically responsible corporate citizen that is committed to the
principles of sustainable development and with respect for people and nature and the sustainability
of business actions as key corporate values. However, business ethics is highly subjected to the
nuanced dilemmas and challenges of doing business globally. Hence, Bayer has invested extended
effort into building ethical programs that respond to all its constituencies’ needs and specificities,
with particular consideration for potential areas of divergence. In trying to keep with the corporate
slogan, “Bayer: Science for a Better Life”, the company is involved in around 300 socially
responsible projects worldwide, with an annual investment of approximately EUR 50 million. The
projects focus on the areas of education and research, environment and nature, health and social
needs, and sports and culture. According to Bayer’s corporate identity statements, the company
plays an active role in fostering sustainable development through national and international
networks – such as the Econsense Forum for Sustainable Development of German Business, the
World Business Council for Sustainable Development and the United Nations’ Global Compact, of
which Bayer is a founding member. Bayer was one of fifty companies worldwide that established
the Global Compact in the year 2000 with the purpose of uniting the power of markets with the
strength of universal ideals. Besides abiding by the rules of the Global Compact, Bayer undertakes
its own initiatives to spread its message throughout the world. Thus, it has undertaken projects to
Business ethics at the intersection of local and global 6
combat child labor in India and Brazil, it is an active part in projects involving the international
chemical industry and embraces programs and agreements aimed at ensuring a corporate culture
characterized by high labor standards and the strict rejection of corruption.
Bayer has built an ethical identity that taps into universal principles and adapts them to the
needs and the specificities of the local markets it is a part of. As Koller (2007) was arguing,
“glocalisation renders the nation state obsolete by reinforcing supra-national entities” (p. 112).
Thus, universal principles, such as those established by the UN, provide the company’s compass
for ethical behavior and help it avoid engaging in imperialist or colonialist behaviors. Because
ethics is a problematic and multi-faceted field and dilemmas are never clear cut, there is no unique
grid for interpretation or mediation. Universal principles are thus statutory for an initial ethical
reconciliation, after which negotiation between diverging localities comes into place. The global
company needs to operate on a open-systems perspective that allows it to respond to the dynamics
of its environment and mediate between its constituencies in a way that is inclusive and coherent.
A permanent negotiation between localities is the norm because globalization not only juxtaposes
different cultures, but it connects them in an ever-changing relationship. Globalization is
fundamentally relational and is based on a permanent dialectic between the local and the global.
In developing its social responsibility projects, Bayer acknowledges the importance that the
relational dimension in building sound citizenship. Because a global identity is the integration and
the interconnectedness of multiple local identities, Bayer has taken its corporate mission and
philosophy as framework for building relationships with partners across the world. Thus, its values
serve as basis for the partnerships it has built in trying to serve local communities. Bayer has
partnered with a local university in Beijing in an effort to educate the population in relation to
AIDS, it is trying to eliminate hunger and educate in Brazil, it offers entertainment for the disabled
Business ethics at the intersection of local and global 7
in Germany, and conducts clinical efforts to find a vaccine against tuberculosis in South Africa.
There are only some of the ways Bayer is trying to make a contribution to its communities and
prove its value as a global citizen. The company makes extensive efforts in investigating the
particularities the local cultures it serves so that it can turn every public category into a valued
Business ethics at the intersection of local and global 8
Beck, U. (2000).The world horizon opens up: On the sociology of globalization. In What is
globalization? (pp. 22-63). Cambridge: Polity Press.
Cheney, G., Christensen, L., Zorn, T., & Ganesh, S. (2004). Communicating identity individually
and collectively. In Organizational communication in an age of globalization (pp.
107-137). Long Grove, IL: Waveland Press.
csrwire.com (2009, March 13). Bayer named one of DiversityInc's top 10 companies for global
diversity. Retrieved March 22nd, 2009, from http://www.csrwire.com/News/14809.html
Featherstone, M. (1995). Local & Global Cultures. In Undoing culture: Globalization,
postmodernism and identity (pp. 86-101). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
Giddens, A. (2000). Runaway world: How globalization is reshaping our lives. New York:
Kim, Y. Y. (2001). Identity development: From cultural to intercultural. In Becoming
intercultural: An integrative theory of communication and cross-cultural adaptation (pp.
347-369). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
Koller, V. (2007). “The world’s local bank”: Glocalization as a strategy in corporate branding
discourse. Social Semiotics, 17(1), 111-130.
Marquardt, M. J. (1999). Creating a global corporate culture. In The global advantage: How
world-class organizations improve performance through globalization (pp. 62-89).
Houston, TX: Gulf Publishing Company.
Parker, B. (1998). Global enterprises. In Globalization and business practice: Managing across
boundaries (pp. 46-96). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
Business ethics at the intersection of local and global 9
Parker, B. (1998). Culture, subcultures, and organizational socialization. In Globalization and
business practice: Managing across boundaries (pp. 75-106). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
Robertson, Roland. 1997. Glocalization: Time-space and homogeneity-heterogeneity. In Global
Modernities, edited by M. Featherstone, S. Lash and R. Robertson. Thousand Oaks, CA: