There are many problems that would seem to be eliminated from domestic American business, that are still present and quite damaging in the sphere of international business ethics. Because different countries can set their own laws and standards, however, establishing any kind of international business code of ethics which would allow for the monitoring and investigation of such unethical employment practices is difficult, both in simply creating such a code of ethics and in enforcing it.
The International Labour Organization is the closest to an international body focused on enforcing provisions of its international business code of ethics by banning certain clearly and definitively unethical practices. The International Labour Organization determines the International Labour Code, which is a compiled set of conventions and recommendations regarding labor and associated subjects.
But this Code is not a definitive international business code of ethics which must be obeyed by all countries participating in international business. Instead, while any convention established in the International Labour Code is considered an international labour standard, only those countries that have ratified the convention bear a legal responsibility to obey its provisions.
Ratification of any given convention is entirely voluntary as well, meaning that nations which simply choose not to adopt stronger provisions against unethical employment practices can choose not to ratify those conventions, and thus, avoid needing to change their practices under law.
The International Labour Organization also established the Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work, which determined the four fundamental principles of any kind of international business code of ethics. They are: freedom of association and collective bargaining, the lack of discrimination, the elimination of forced labor, and the similar elimination of child labor.
Again, however, despite the right-minded intentions of this international business code of ethics, it has not had the decisive effect upon international business practices that one might have hoped for. This is because the Declaration does not bind nations involuntarily.
There are many who criticize the Declaration for the fact that it does not cover all topics of ethical labour practices, and instead focuses on those particulars. These critics argue that any full international business code of ethics should also focus on health, safety, and work hour standards as well. Beyond any flaws that the Declaration might have, the primary problem facing it is that it does not bind the most problematic countries with enough force, whether it is because they refuse to adopt the Declaration, or because they simply conceal those practices which stand against the Declaration’s provisions.
The United States Congress attempted on multiple occasions to pass a Decent Working Conditions and Fair Competition Act, which would not act to bind other countries, but for the United States would represent the beginning of codifying an international business code of ethics into law. This Act has repeatedly died while in committee discussion, likely because it has met with opposition from business powers in America that would rather continue to take advantage of the unethical employment practices of foreign businesses.
This represents the primary problem facing the establishment of any kind of law to help bring ethics to international business: the unethical practices that such a law would eliminate are far too profitable for countries to uniformly and easily agree to obey such a law.