Politics, Ethics, and Corporate Policy: U.S. Corporations' 1986 Position Papers on South Africa

By Rivers, William E. | The Journal of Business Communication, October 2000 | Go to article overview

Politics, Ethics, and Corporate Policy: U.S. Corporations' 1986 Position Papers on South Africa


Rivers, William E., The Journal of Business Communication


This article analyzes 48 position papers U.S. corporations distributed in 1986 to define and defend their presence in South Africa under aparthid. As public statements about one of the most difficult business and ethical issues ever faced by U.S. corporations, these papers constitute a special moment in the history of business writing. Unique in its economic, political, and ethical complexity, this situation required corporations to depart from traditional ways of making decisions and traditional ways of writing about those decisions. These corporations, all but one signatories to the Sullivan Principles, evolved a unique structure that allowed them to enter the debate on divestiture, yet minimize their rhetorical exposure. The limitations inherent in that new pattern became evident, however, in the mid-1980s as the debate became more intense and frustrating for executives and their corporations. The essay also examines the pivotal role of Leon Sullivan, the African American minister who organized these corpo rations in their anti apartheid efforts, monitored their efforts, pushed them to do more, served as their rhetorical point man in opposition to divestiture, and helped define them as a discourse community.

Keywords: Corporate Policy, Ethics, History of Business Communication, South African Business Communication

One of the most complex and difficult ethical issues faced by many U.S. corporations in the 1980s was whether to continue operations in South Africa, a decision made even more complex and political by pressure from individuals and organizations who believed that the mere presence of U.S. corporations in South Africa supported that country's government and its unjust apartheid policies. [1] Debate on the issue became a high-profile, highly-emotional public issue. In response to these pressures, many of the companies who conducted business in South Africa produced position papers to describe their operations and their reasons for maintaining operations there. This paper analyzes 48 of these position papers written and distributed by U.S. corporations shortly before or during 1986.

The pressures on U.S. corporations doing business in South Africa were at their height in 1986. As resistance to apartheid and violence in South Africa increased, the South African government responded by declaring a state of emergency, which only served to escalate the tension and violence. In the United States, the debate over whether U.S.-based multinational corporations should divest themselves of their South African holdings intensified. Influential, well-meaning people such as religious leaders, university presidents, and politicians disagreed over what was the most moral and effective means of exerting pressure on the South African government to end its apartheid policies. Should U.S. corporations be asked or even forced to pull out of South Africa thus isolating the government by denying it essential goods and services? Or should corporations continue to operate in South Africa and work against apartheid by hiring black African employees, training them to become technicians and managers, providing th em with better housing and educational opportunities--in short, undercutting apartheid by creating growing enclaves of economic and personal equality within that repressive system? Should the United States government take a more active role in its opposition to apartheid by imposing economic and political sanctions? The debate raged in meetings of corporate boards, university trustees, church leaders, state legislatures, and congressional committees; and it spilled into the streets with demonstrations in Washington, on Wall Street, and on college and university campuses. [2]

Many of those U.S. corporations who chose to stay in South Africa were signatories to the "Statement of Principles of U.S. Firms with Affiliates in the Republic of South Africa" and the organization created to monitor the progress of these corporations in achieving the goals inherent in those principles. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Politics, Ethics, and Corporate Policy: U.S. Corporations' 1986 Position Papers on South Africa
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.