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Business ethics (also known as corporate ethics) is a form of applied
ethics or professional ethics that examines ethical principles and moral or
ethical problems that arise in a business environment. It applies to all aspects
of business conduct and is relevant to the conduct of individuals and entire
Business ethics has both normative and descriptive dimensions. As a
corporate practice and a career specialization, the field is primarily
normative. Academics attempting to understand business behavior employ
descriptive methods. The range and quantity of business ethical issues
reflects the interaction of profit-maximizing behavior with non-economic
concerns. Interest in business ethics accelerated dramatically during the
1980s and 1990s, both within major corporations and within academia. For
example, today most major corporations promote their commitment to non-
economic values under headings such as ethics codes and social
DEFINING MORALITY, ETHICS AND
Morality is concerned with the norms, values and beliefs embedded in social
processes which define right and wrong for an individual or a community.
Ethics is concerned with the study of morality and the application of reason to
elucidate specific rules and principles that determine right and wrong for any
These rules and principles are called ethical theories.
Business ethical norms reflect the norms of each historical period. As time
passed, those norms evolved, and many behaviors that were once generally
accepted became objectionable. Business ethics and the resulting behavior
evolved as well. Business was involved in slavery, colonialism, and the cold
The term 'business ethics' came into common use in the United States in the
early 1970s. By the mid-1980s at least 500 courses in business ethics reached
40,000 students, using some twenty textbooks and at least ten casebooks along
supported by professional societies, centers and journals of business ethics. The
Society for Business Ethics was started in 1980. European business schools
adopted business ethics after 1987 commencing with the European Business
Ethics Network (EBEN). In 1982 the first single-authored books in the field
FORMATION OF ETHICS
An individual’s ethics are formulated through the operation of forces in the
individual’s environment. These are discussed in the succeeding paragraphs.
•Values and morals
•The legal system
FUNCTIONAL BUSINESS AREAS
Fundamentally, finance is a social science discipline. The discipline borders behavioral
economics, sociology, economics, accounting and management. It concerns technical
issues such as the mix of debt and equity, dividend policy, the evaluation of alternative
investment projects, options, futures, swaps, and
other derivatives, portfolio diversification and many others. It is often mistaken to be a
discipline free from ethical burdens. The 2008 financial crisis caused critics to challenge
the ethics of the executives in charge of U.S. and European financial institutions and
financial regulatory bodies. Finance ethics is overlooked for another reason—issues in
finance are often addressed as matters of law rather than ethics.
HUMAN RESOURCE MANAGEMENT
Human resource management occupies the sphere of activity of recruitment selection,
orientation, performance appraisal, training and development, industrial
relations and health and safety issues. Business Ethicists differ in their orientation
towards labour ethics. Some assess human resource policies according to whether they
support an egalitarian workplace and the dignity of labor.
Issues including employment itself, privacy, compensation in accord with comparable
worth, collective bargaining (and/or its opposite) can be seen either as inalienable rights
or as negotiable. Discrimination by age (preferring the young or the old), gender/sexual
harassment, race, religion, disability, weight and attractiveness. A common approach to
remedying discrimination is affirmative action.
As part of more comprehensive compliance and ethics programs, many companies
have formulated internal policies pertaining to the ethical conduct of employees.
These policies can be simple exhortations in broad, highly generalized language
(typically called a corporate ethics statement), or they can be more detailed policies,
containing specific behavioural requirements (typically called corporate ethics
codes). They are generally meant to identify the company's expectations of workers
and to offer guidance on handling some of the more common ethical problems that
might arise in the course of doing business. It is hoped that having such a policy will
lead to greater ethical awareness, consistency in application, and the avoidance of
Ethics officers (sometimes called "compliance" or "business conduct officers") have
been appointed formally by organizations since the mid-1980s. One of the catalysts
for the creation of this new role was a series of fraud, corruption, and abuse scandals
that afflicted the U.S. defense industry at that time. This led to the creation of the
Defense Industry Initiative (DII), a pan-industry initiative to promote and ensure
ethical business practices. The DII set an early benchmark for ethics management in
corporations. In 1991, the Ethics & Compliance Officer Association (ECOA)—
originally the Ethics Officer Association (EOA)—was founded at the Center for
Business Ethics (at Bentley College, Waltham, MA) as a professional association for
those responsible for managing organizations' efforts to achieve ethical best
practices. The membership grew rapidly (the ECOA now has over 1,200 members)
and was soon established as an independent organization.
CODE OF ETHICS
Code of ethics has become popular .Nearly 95 percent of the Fortune
500companies have codes, and a trend is visible in the corporate sector in India
also. Industry association have evolved codes of conduct their own. For
example, the council of fair business practices (CFBP) established in 1916, by
leading private sector industrialist in western India, and adopted a code of fair
business practices. The code constitutes a primary level, self regulation character
for enlighten citizenship among business entities. The CFBP has initiated a set of
prizes and awards called ‘Jamnalal Bajaj Uchit Vyavahar Puraskar’
or(JamnalalBajaj prize for fair Business Practices) to promote exemplary
application of the above norms .
OBJECTIVES OF CODE OF ETHICS
A code of ethics aims at the following:
Guidance :It provides direction to the most important element of an
organization namely the “People”, so that they know how to conduct themselves in
terms of ethical behavior and give them a sense of common identity.
Confidence: It inspires public confidence besides enhancing the reputation of
Initiative: it provides initiative and stimulation to the suppliers and customers
for proper conduct by creating a sense of moral obligation
Ethical culture: It promotes a culture of excellence by not just formally
teaching ethics, but by demonstrating through leaders the commitment of the
organization to ethical behavior.
ETHICS AND LAW
Laws and ethics have common aim-defining proper and improper
behaviour. But the two are not quite same. Laws are the society’s
attempt to formalize-that is to reduce to written rules-idea about what is
right and what is wrong in various walks of like. However, it is rarely
possible for written rules to capture all the sublet variations that people
give to ethics. Ethical concepts are more complex than writing rules.
Ethics deals with human dilemmas that frequently go beyond the formal
language of laws and the meanings given to legal rules. Similarities and
differences apart, legal rules help promote ethical behaviour in
PRINCIPLE OF SOCIALAND ETHICAL
•These principles can be used in designing and managing a process, or in assessing its
quality. The dominant principle of social and ethical accounting is inclusively. This principle
requires that the aspirations needs of all stakeholder groups are taken into account at all
stages of the social and ethical accounting process. Other principles can be put into three
broad relating to the:
•Scope and nature of the company’s social ethical accounting process.
•Meaningfulness of the information created by the process.
•Continuous management of the process.
We’ve looked at three approaches to business ethics, and we’ve seen that all three
have limitations. If we hope to find an approach to business ethics that is free from
conceptual problems, we will not likely find any. Ethics is a complex subject and its
history is filled with diverse theories that are systematically refuted by rival theories.
So, we should expect to find controversies when applying ethics to the specific
practices of business. However, following any of the above three approaches to
business ethics will bring us closer to acceptable moral behavior than we might
otherwise be. Close attention to one’s profit motive and the moral interests of
consumers might in fact generate some morally responsible business decisions.