Business Ethics and Indigenous Values

Mark Selman Chris Derickson 

Our views about what is right and wrong and the nature of the good life are part of what makes us who we are. These fundamental values shape how we interact with others, how we understand our rights and responsibilities and our relationships other peoples, species and the environment. Business ethics in the western world are shaped specifically by two theories, both springing from the European enlightenment, when democratic institutions were emerging and the economy was becoming industrialized. They are known as utilitarianism and deontology. They form the basis for western law as well as social science disciplines including economics and public policy.

Indigenous ways of understanding how to be a good person, as told through stories and the writings of modern indigenous philosophers, are complex, nuanced, and embody the accumulated wisdom of generations. Historically, they supported the development of thriving nations and more recently they have survived the failed efforts of colonizers to replace them with western beliefs and practices. While these traditions are largely ignored or pushed aside there is a quiet revolution occurring in which academics, knowledge keepers, and communities are currently rediscovering modern applications for their long held ways of knowing.