consumerism spreading, Werhane says
world's remotest corners will come to seem increasingly less remote,
as more and more of their inhabitants purchase Coca-Cola, watch
"Dallas" and make detailed wish lists of Western products,
according to one of several predictions for the next century by
Patricia H. Werhane, Ruffin Professor of Business Ethics at Darden
and senior fellow at the Olsson
Center for Applied Ethics.
creating the desire for consumption, but will improve quality
of life all over the world," she said in a recent interview.
"The downside is that expansion of the global economy means
that cultural differences are disappearing," though some
organizations are trying to halt that, she said.
also predicts that corporations will become increasingly more
environmentally conscious, creating more recyclable products;
cheap labor will remain abundant, limiting the improvement of
working conditions worldwide; and more and more species of plants
and animals will become extinct.
"English will become the primary language," she said,
noting that American television is viewed worldwide, even in remote
villages such as the one she visited last year in India, where
she found people watching "Dallas."
spread the idea that you've got to have a car around the world;
people see it on television and think they have to have it,"
said Werhane, who has taught classes here, including a business
ethics course required for first-year Darden students, since 1993.
the West, we're not about to change our consumer lifestyles, she
predicted, but the products we buy will be made so they're recyclable.
"I see corporations finally taking the environment seriously,
seeing a sustainable approach as an advantage," she said.
"There's a growing consensus, especially among certain chemical
and oil companies, that one can't simply comply with some regulations.
Several oil companies are finally investing real money in solar."
law is giving automobile companies a push, she said, by requiring
that all cars be made so that every piece is reusable by 2005.
One German company has created a car that is 80 percent recyclable,
and an American company is also working on the concept.
can make money on that because they don't have to buy raw materials,"
she said, adding that electric cars should be widely available
said she's not as optimistic about workplace issues such as flex-time
and pay equity among diverse groups, that, she told her students
25 years ago, she expected would be resolved by the end of the
there have been improvements in working conditions worldwide,
in terms of safety, fresh air, and shorter workdays, she doesn't
"see us moving to more participatory management, or decreasing
the disparity between the pay of CEOs and low-wage workers,"
particularly in the U.S., she said. She pointed out that, when
Daimler-Benz bought Chrysler, the American executives were being
paid five to 10 times as much as the German ones.
long as we can get low-wage labor, we'll use it until we can't
get it," said Werhane, who is working on a book on ethical
issues in employment. "A Mexican gets three times as much
in a maquiladora on the border as a subsistence farmer,"
so many farmers are drawn to these low-wage factories.
such farmers, millions of whom eke out a living from small plots
of land, are becoming small-scale entrepreneurs of products made
from local materials, making their individual cultures more economically
sustainable, with the help of some companies and nongovernmental
organizations, she said.
"Unilever, a gigantic Dutch and British company, is doing
microdevelopment in small villages in India to help people become
entrepreneurs to develop their own indigenous products,"
The Grameen Bank in Bangladesh was started in 1972 by a Bangladeshi
who realized that poor women's home businesses could benefit greatly
from loans of even $20. The bank currently has over a thousand
branches and 2 million clients, lending out $30 million to $40
million a month, but only to clients who own no property.
Werhane said U.S. banks, such as South Shore Bank in Chicago,
are starting to copy this microdevelopment model, in response
to pressure by consumers, and she expects they will be much more
common by 2100.
But can these banks and organizations stem the corporate tide
that's replacing distinct cultures with American-style consumerism?
Werhane sounds doubtful: "Unfortunately, we have become the