English through Short Stories | Teaching Online

English through Short Stories


Interview with Clair Bebbington, External Affairs Manager for a division of British Petroleum.
Interviewer: Why should companies be ethical or what are the advantages of a company in behaving ethically?
Claire: Mmm, I think the whole issue of ethics is a very complex
one. Companies are made up of people. Multinationals are made up of many different nationalities. I think that companies are part
of society and as such they should reflect society’s standards. Companies, especially multinational ones, do have responsibilities in the world and should try to be positive influence and I think if a company is not ethical, then it will not survive as a company.
Interviewer: Should a company have a code of ethics?
Claire: I think, from my point of view, it’s useful on two counts. Firstly, it makes a commitment to
certain good behavior and so it’s a way of communicating the importance of good behavior to all of its employees and partners. Secondly, if a company has a code of ethics and spends time communicating it, it does actually contribute to it’s ethical behavior. If you express these things in writing, especially, then you can be held accountable for them. This tends to mean that you are much more likely to act on them as well. I think following up that code is difficult. People tend to have different ethical standards, and defining the term ‘ethics’ can be a problem. But I think generally to express what your ethics are is a positive thing to do.
Interviewer: What kinds of moral dilemmas do large companies face? Can you think of any
Claire: I think if you were to look at any company’s ethical code, you would usually find in it a
section about offering bribes and this can be an area where people can get themselves into hot water. Facilitation payments are part of doing business in many countries, and bribes are something which most companies are not going to want to get involved in. But when does a
facilitation payment become a bribe? And that is a question that can be quite difficult to answer.


Britain is seen as more corrupt than seven other European countries,
including Germany, according to an authoritative annual league table released yesterday by the Berlin-based Transparency International group. Transparency International is a private group, set up in 1993 to fight corruption, and bases its information on seven international
surveys of business people, political analysts and the public.
The cleanest countries this year were Denmark, Finland and Sweden, which moved New
Zealand from the top position. Britain came relatively low, in 14th position, its image apparently damaged by stories of sleaze. It was overtaken by Germany, although the Germans still tolerate companies which hand out bribes to foreign contractors.
Germany has been under pressure, especially from the United States, to plug legal loopholes
which allow German businessmen to write off bribes abroad against tax. Yet both Britain, and even the United States, which has strict legal barriers against international bribery, are behind the Germans. In part, this is probably because of the nature of the survey, which does not track such areas as company-to-company bribery.
The most corrupt countries this year are regarded as Nigeria, followed by Bolivia, Colombia and Russia. Pakistan has improved its position, earning only one out of ten for honesty last year but 2.53 this year. The chairman of Transparency International, Peter Eigen, issued a warning against focusing on Third World corruption.
‘Corruption is perceived to be greatest there, but I urge the public to recognize that a large share
of the corruption is the product of multinational corporations, headquartered in leading industrialized countries, using massive bribery and kickbacks to buy contracts in the developing world and the countries in transition.’ The Third World, in other words, would be less corrupt if developed states stopped offering bribes.
Indeed, the most revealing standings are buried deep in the table. Belgium, for example, is now
regarded as more corrupt than Mediterranean nations such as Portugal, Spain and Greece.
‘Every day that the poor scores in the Corruption Perception Index are not being dealt with
means more impoverishment, less education and less healthcare,’ said Dr. Eigen. Money was diverted from development into over-priced contracts.
A study by Harvard associate professor Jim Allen found that a rise in corruption levels had
the same effect on foreign investments as raising the marginal tax rate by more than 20 percent. ‘Awareness is a first step to fighting or reducing corruption,’ he said.


Profit or principle?
Nikos Takakis is the CEO of Livewire, an Australian manufacturer of electrical appliances. During
the last three years, his General Manager Carl Thomson, has turned Livewire around from being a loss-making company into a profitable organization with an exciting range of new products. Both men want the company to grow as fast as possible.
Valerie Harper is Personal Assistant to Carl Thomson. Valerie joined Livewire just over a year ago.
In the beginning she was considered to be an outstanding employee. However, more recently she has been having difficulties working with Carl. They have been seen shouting at each other, and often Valerie appears upset when leaving his office. Nikos has received the following memo from Valerie.

Business Culture

Many newcomers to Guatemala are surprised by the openness and frankness of their Guatemalan
counterparts. Personal relationships are very important, and Guatemalans often treat business partners as respected friends whom they try to make as comfortable and relaxed as possible. The phrase No tengo pena (don’t worry) is commonly heard, as Guatemalans strive to set others at ease in both business and social situations. Honesty, hard work, and personal honor are traits Guatemalans admire and strive to include in any business deal. Direct criticism of a person or of a person’s job or business is considered impolite. Avoid being openly critical of anyone, even your competitors. In Guatemala, the value of the relationship is directly proportional to the frequency of visits. At the very least, you should have an on-site Guatemalan representative for your business venture. Ideally, visiting business people should visit the country several times to show how much they value doing business in Guatemala.



petroleum: oil which is found under the surface of the earth or under the sea bed.
code: a set of rules about how people should behave or about how something must be done.
bribe: a sum of money or something valuable that one person offers or gives to another in order to persuade him or her to do something.


bribery: the act of offering someone money or something valuable in order to persuade them to do something for you.
authoritative: accepted as a reliable source of knowledge.
sleaze: activities that you consider immoral, dishonest, or not respectable, especially in politics, business, journalism, or entertainment.
plug: to block a hole with something.
loophole: a small mistake which allows people to do something that would otherwise be illegal.
kickback: part of a sum of money received that is paid to someone else for help or favours already received or to come, especially if this is illegally given.

impoverish: to make a person or a country poor.
divert: to cause money or resources to be used for a different purpose.

Vocabulary Exercise

Fill the gaps with the words above.
1. There is a strict dress no______________ sneakers or jeans.
2. Kayo is suspected of having received a 1 billion yen________________ in return for writing off the debts of Mitsubishi affiliates.
3. We need to reduce the burden of taxes that ________________the economy.
4. The government is trying to_________________ more public funds from west to east.
5. It is estimated that 60,000 shops open every Sunday and trade by exploiting some___________ in the law to avoid prosecution.
6. She claimed that an atmosphere of______________ and corruption now surrounded the Government.
7. Crews are working to__________________ a major oil leak.
8. He has a commanding presence and deep_______________, voice.
9. He was jailed on charges of__________________
10. Spain’s the largest distributor of_____________ products.
11. He was being investigated for receiving____________

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