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Business Ethics According to Stanford Encyclopedia


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.

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Discussion

3 thoughts on “Business Ethics According to Stanford Encyclopedia

  1. I definately agree. I think you are correct in saying that “US corporations should hold themselves to a higher standard”. I like that you broght up instituting a fair trade policy in the US. Although it may not solve all the problems of the ethical dilemma, I think that for sure it would be a step in the right direction. I think the larger overarching problem is corporate greed for profits, which is virtually impossible to erradiate completely. Even with a fair trade policy, I think that corporations would find a way around the law and would still feel no moral obligation to do what is right. Most corporations, historically, have acted in their own interests, without regard for other stakeholders involved. Unfortunately, I do not see this changing.

    Posted by Lauren McGuiggan | January 31, 2012, 11:10 am
  2. I am very intrigued by your discussion of international business ethics. Having spent the last summer working in Ireland, I have a greater appreciation for the complexity of international business. Even after spending one summer working there, I noticed both the similarities and differences of working in a foreign country. As our world continues to become more globalized, I think it is imperative that we begin to understand more about how each country operates. I never really considered how business conduct could be different between Ireland and the United States. While Ireland is not significantly different from the United States compared to the difference between here and a third world country, it is nevertheless extremely important for business students to start exploring different cultures and learning how other countries operate.

    Posted by Jenna | January 31, 2012, 11:29 pm

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  1. Pingback: PPT Presentation on Ethics in International Business « The Papers of SL Douglas - February 25, 2012

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