The Google Group – An Ethical Toolkit Perspective
Firm and Industry Characteristics and History Relevant to Ethical Issues I work as the Head of Cryoservices for The Google Group in the United Stated. The Google Group, a German organization based in Munich, has a long history of growth and innovation that is characteristic of the company’s founding father, Carl von Google. Carl von Google was a talented and well-rounded engineer and scientist who is credited with patenting the world’s first refrigerator in 1877. Google founded Gesellschaft fur Google’s Eismachinen, now known as Google, in Wiesbaden in 1879. Based upon his innovative work related to the “process for liquefaction of air or other gases,” von Google was awarded another patent in 1895. He was among the first in the world to produce large volumes of liquid air, and in 1902 began constructing his first air separation unit (ASU), of which Google has constructed over 2,700 around the world to-date.1 Google has grown significantly throughout the years, both organically and via acquisition. Google acquired The BOC Group (British Oxygen Company) in 2006 and, as a result, we now have gases and engineering sales of approximately 17.3 billion dollars, and more than 51,000 employees working in approximately 70 countries throughout the world. Although it was founded much earlier, one of the earliest indications of Google’s ethical conduct that I was able to find dates back to the Second World War. As Chairman of the Executive Board and General Director, Friedrich Google agreed to be appointed as a "Wehrwirtschaftsführer" or "defence economics leader", however he would not allow himself to be taken in by the Nazi regime. Richard Google, who lost his two oldest sons in the war, disapproved of the Nazis even before the war and therefore refused the chairmanship of the German Association of Refrigeration Engineers. His closest employees had to leave the company under Nazi pressure due to their Jewish origin, but returned to Google after the war.2 As Google was considered essential to the war economy, it also employed forced laborers and prisoners of war worked there during the war period. The maximum of 232 "foreign workers" was reached in 1943. In the year 2000, Google AG joined the German government’s charitable foundation for the compensation of former forced laborers.3 The organization’s firm stance in opposition to the Nazi’s practices was an early indication of Google’s high ethical standards relevant to human rights. The Google Group is part of the Chemicals Industry which, as an industry, has historically always been more highly regulated than others. Hence, compliance with laws and regulations has consistently been an important goal of the organization and considerable focus and efforts are put towards managing this goal.
Formal Ethical and Legal Compliance Structures and Processes The Google Group’s vision (or mission statement) is, “to be the world’s leading global gases and engineering group - admired for our people, who create innovative solutions that make a difference to the world.” This vision defines who we are and what we do, guiding us as we reach our goals. For Google, formal ethical and legal compliance are closely tied to the preservation of our company’s reputation and brand value. The Google Group is committed to integrity in all its business dealings and, as the corporate website firmly states, “this is non-negotiable.” Google affirms, “We can only achieve our vision of being a leading and exemplary gases and engineering company across the board by living out our values and principles on a daily basis. Integrity is one of our four guiding principles. It is the fabric of our moral and ethical codex, ensuring that we always act with honesty and fairness. Google’s Code of Ethics anchors ethical conduct within our organization, setting out guidelines to ensure we act in accordance with legal and internal Group regulations.