The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy’s article entitled Business Ethics was interesting to read. Although it was published in April of 2008, many of the issues addressed are still relevant at the present time. First, the entry discusses business ethics on a broad level, defining the concept as “the applied ethics discipline that addresses the moral features of commercial activity.” But, what exactly is business ethics in practice? The article goes on to explore the answer(s) to this question, touching upon the role of the corporation, the employment relation, international issues, and criticisms of the focus and methodology of business ethics.
I would agree with the idea presented in the article that business ethics is rooted in corporate social responsibility. According to Forbes, corporate social responsibility refers to “demonstrating concern for the environment, human rights, community development and the welfare of their employees both in the U.S. and abroad.” In order for a business to be perceived as socially responsible, it must behave in an ethical manner. As a result, the business may become even more profitable by appealing to increasingly socially and environmentally conscious consumers.
I also liked the idea that business ethics encompasses a business’s relationship to the well-being of society. This point ties into our class discussion from last week regarding stakeholder theory. As you might recall from Freeman’s Business Ethics at the Millennium, stakeholder theory argues that a business should be managed in a way that achieves a balance among the interests of all stakeholders, or those who can have some effect on the firm or may be affected by the firm’s actions. A business needs to be accountable to others and society as a whole by attending to the interests of stakeholders when creating policies and making decisions.
I found the section of the article that described international business ethics particularly interesting as it brought up the emergence of globalization. I had never really considered the fact that ethical norms may not always be consistent across cultures. The article explores the question of which ethical norms should guide one’s business conduct in other countries and cultures, with a particular focus on business in less developed countries. The basic guidelines call for the avoiding harm, doing good, respecting human rights, respecting the local culture, cooperating with just governments and institutions, and accepting ethical responsibility for one’s actions.
In addition, international ethical business conduct is directly tied to the debate over sweatshop labor, or the hiring of workers in less developed countries, usually at minimal wages and under poor work conditions, to manufacture products for the developed world. It is troublesome to me that many multinational firms outsource labor and exploit poor working and wage conditions in less developed countries. They engage in this practice to increase their profits. This is unethical. These firms need to consider the stakeholders involved and pay reasonable living wages and ensure better working conditions for those involved.