Business ethics is the application of ethical values to business behaviour. It applies to any and all aspects of business conduct, from boardroom strategies and how companies treat their suppliers to sales techniques and accounting practices. Ethics goes beyond the legal requirements for a company and is, therefore, discretionary. Business ethics are an almost daily topic in the news, in business schools, in the workplace and in our homes. I pay close attention to business ethics and what is written about them in my daily life as a strategic thinking, planning and business coach.
There was a cyclonic storm and millions of fish were washed ashore and were struggling for life on the beach. A man came to the beach and patiently began to pick up the fish, one by one, and throw them back into the sea. There is little point in my telling you what is ethically right or wrong. You already have an interpretation of this. But let us understand what influences our interpretation of ethics; our interpersonal relations with others, such as our family, friends, neighbors, fellow workers, as well as the media.
Business ethics is a form of applied ethics that examines just rules and principles within a commercial context; the various moral or ethical problems that can arise in a business setting; and any special duties or obligations that apply to persons who are engaged in commerce. Implementing an ethics program in your organization accomplishes many things. First, research has found that greater attention to ethics in the workplace has actually improved society overall, in that we no longer have to fear poverty due to accidents in the workplace, and our children are no longer forced to work.
Because of business ethics, people in the workplace have more rights, and are therefore more productive. There are so-called professional ethics, and in particular – business ethics, which includes standards of entrepreneur behavior. Entrepreneurial activity is impossible without the numerous contacts with people; it is not designed to work alone. Business code ethics need to be part of your organization’s culture; and recent business ethics cases prove that need. Stories of large business fraud to small business embezzlement are being reported with ever-increasing frequency; unfortunately business ethics are under attack.
Ethics plays an ever increasing role in our society today, and environmental ethics and business ethics must be first and foremost. This has become more prevalent in our society today, especially after the Wall Street melt down a couple of years ago, and people have been swindled far too often by unethical business practices. The National Business Ethics Survey (NBES) provides an overview of ethics in the workplace and the 2005 version indicates that ethical misconduct is increasing. And this is after Enron, et al.
The NBES included more than 3,000 American workers and their survey showed that more than half of American workers have observed at least one type of ethical misconduct in the workplace. Ethics are a part of each of our lives, good or bad. And when it comes to business ethics, the same thing applies, because some businesses have great ethics while others have poor. If you aren’t sure where your ethical radar might fall, here is something you should remember.
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