Yesterday, terrible news from Zimbabwe created global outcry. An American dentist killed Cecil – the famous and beloved lion resident of Hwange National Park. He paid his guides the equivalent of 50,000 USD. Cecil was allegedly lured out of a national park, where shootings are illegal- before he was shot with a bow and arrow. Since the lion did not immediately die, the majestic animal was tracked for forty hours before he was shot with a gun.
The hunter/killer was a dentist from Minnesota. Newsfeeds have tons of details, which are ever evolving. In this blog I want to focus on what (the case of) Cecil the Lion has to say about doing business in emerging markets.
- What Happens in Vegas Does Not Stay in Vegas. Some businesspeople take an atrocious “Vegas” attitude towards their developing country travels. They engage in all sorts of activities that they would not want people at home to know about. They may sleep with child prostitutes, accept bribes, or kill magnificent animals. Be aware that especially in this social media connected world, what you do abroad can come back to haunt you at home. Just check out the dentist’s Yelp page. His business is currently shutdown, and he is in hiding. The long-term ramifications will not be pretty.
- Do Your Own Due Diligence. The dentist has defended himself by saying that he relied on the professional expertise of his local guides to ensure a legal hunt. If he truly thought that these guides would only act 100% in accordance to local law, then he failed to understand that in the emerging markets context the importance of proper due diligence cannot be overemphasized. This failure in understanding has put his professional standing at grave risk.
- The Dollar Remains Stronger than Most Currencies. 50,000 USD is a lot of money, and a fortune in the Zimbabwean context! This fortune could easily persuade a local to act out of accordance with the law. Zimbabwe’s GDP per capita in 2014 was 936 USD, according to the World Bank World Development Indicators.
- Reputation is a Critical Business Asset. Even if it had been legal to shoot Cecil, the people of the world have spoken and said that it was unforgivable. Similarly, sometimes businesspeople say that the only thing that matters is shareholder profits, and that this is their fiduciary obligation. Others say that corporate social responsibility does matter. Cecil the Lion has “spoken”- these two aims are not contrary to each other. If you act unethically, then your reputation and business will take a hit. Your shareholders will see their profits plunge. Doing good is the foundation for good business.
Cecil – may you rest in peace. In your passing, let us all learn the lesson that leaving one’s borders does not give one immunity against committing acts of cruelty. We must be humane everywhere to be accepted as part of the tribe of humanity.