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Do the Right Thing Business ethics aren't the same everywhere, so stay on the right side of the law.

By Gail Dutton

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Are ethics absolute or are they contextual? How you answer that question is key, particularly if you work internationally. Western societies, grounded in the philosophies of Aristotle and Plato, are most likely to say absolute. Their Asian counterparts, however, generally say that determining what is ethical depends on the situation. This dichotomy means international associates may violate your company's code of ethics or even the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act without realizing anything is amiss.

In Confucian societies, for example, "sometimes it's OK to cheat or steal, as long as it doesn't disturb social harmony by presenting a problem for the family," explains George Haley, author of The Chinese Tao of Business: The Logic of Successful Business Strategy and director of the Center for International Industry Competitiveness at the University of New Haven.

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