According to Weatherly & Otter (2008), business ethics can be defined as a form of applied ethics that deal with the moral and ethical issues arising in the course of business. Business ethics encompasses all business areas that relate to the conduct of an individual and the organization as well. In applied ethics issues like medical, technical and legal issues are involved. The demand for ethical business activities which is mostly known as ethicism is showing a significant increase in day to day business activities with the pressure aimed at improving the ethics through new public initiatives and laws. Business ethics is a discipline which is both normative and descriptive.
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It is considered normative in corporate practice and specialization while the descriptive ethics approaches are always in the preserve of academia. The overall ethical issues in a business are used to judge how businesses value matters of ethics such as social values. Nowadays most major companies give priority to promoting the non-economic social values by rebranding their core values to rhyme with the expected business ethics.
Business ethics cover a wide range of issues that occur in the day to day operations of the business. For instance, esteemed business ethics should be upheld in the human resource department because it deals with issues of employer-employee relationship like the right to duties that both parties owe to each other. Another discrimination issue that may arise from the employer’s side can be related to age, gender, religion and physical appearance in the form of disabilities. On the contrary, the government in addition to prescribing actions also delegates certain duties to managers and firms (Weatherly & Otter, 2008).
Often, disloyalty against an ethically required standard by employers is a common occurrence, especially when dealing with employees. A common example of this practice occurs during the recruitment process, whereby selection for employment is done based on the prior relationship between the employer and the applicant; commonly known as will employment. The violation of the business code of ethics would normally warrant punishment, but considering the position of the lawbreaker and the lax in the company codes, there are no set rules that enable such action. However, the law assigns certain duties to firms, for instance, the American Act assigns requires firms to provide for the disabled in the workplace (Weatherly & Otter, 2008).
Alternatively, certain duties not assigned arise from moral considerations as the government’s participation is needed for responsible management but is not always sufficient. Business ethics are also compromised when the employer is not ready to allow formation and existence of employees’ unions which represent the welfare of employees and ensure equal pay for equal work while ensuring better working conditions for their members.
For instance, Enron in December 1999 was about to miss analysts’ earnings projections which could cause a sharp drop in its share price. As if by instinct, Andrew, CFO and Merrill Lynch arranged for the acquisition of three electricity-generating barges at the cost of Nigeria. Another deal to repurchase the barges would earn Merrill a 15% profit; and in the process keep debt off Enron’s books and manage its earnings.
Consequently, principles of business ethics are intended to protect business owners from intruding into the employees’ private lives. However, this has not been the case in many business operations since there are strategically installed surveillance cameras which monitor the activities and movements of employees. Although the company might maintain the need for security through the surveillance, the intrusion into the employees’ privacy is unethical. On the contrary, sudden termination of employment contracts by employers is a violation of the business ethics with the principle of business ethics condemning such cases. The redemptive procedures providing measures according to the applicable law takes into consideration the position of the parties in an effort to eliminate discrimination (Weatherly & Otter, 2008).
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Corporate social responsibility
On the other hand corporate social responsibility (CSR) which at times can be referred to as sustainable responsible business is a form of self-regulation by a corporate integrated in a business model. This regulation is aimed at embracing responsibility for the impact of their activities on the environment; products on the health of consumers and even on its employees. Another violation of ethics by the employees can be the freedom of worship by giving working conditions that force the employees to work throughout the weekend, which consider the welfare of the company at the expense of the employees’ well being.
The role of the business in the society is explained in two perspectives; fundamentally the societal efficacy view is based on the rationale that the free enterprises enable the use of social resources and human capital, efficiently (Weatherly & Otter, 2008).
A socially responsible enterprise has the interest of the public at heart and participates in the community growth and developments projects for example recruiting its labor force from the local community. In the same faith, participate in other charitable activities such as educating the needy student by granting bursaries; the building of rural roads and schools; provision of electricity and water to the surrounding communities and promoting co-curricular activities by organizing local competitions. In most world economies, every government bears the responsibility to promote corporate social responsibility by ensuring that corporations are monitored to curtail social irresponsibility against the environment and the population.
The government always does this by amending rules and regulations that require business people to operate ethically; failure of which results in legal action (Weatherly & Otter, 2008). These perspectives classify management of companies into managerial capitalism and market capitalism; the latter of which allows for the accumulation of resources by reinvesting back of profits into raising funds for the capital markets.
The similarity of the purpose of the two principles
Corporate social responsibility and business ethics have similarities aimed at improving the working conditions of employees and protect the welfare of the public. The corporate is expected to operate without exposing the public to harm them in the surrounding environment. Business ethics deal with aspects in the business environment and therefore encompass how a business interacts with its global and local communities by upholding proper business ethics and required values. Corporate responsibility believes in the issues of social welfare by giving back to society and improving the lifestyles of the surrounding population.
Additionally, manufacturing industries are required to mitigate harmful activities oftentimes incurring heavy costs that often impact their profitability (Weatherly & Otter, 2008). For instance, the pressure labelled on the management of Hobee’s restaurant concerning the plight of the dolphins under the management’s care. Eventually, the pressure levelled on the management forced Hobee’s restaurant to lower its profits in an effort to protect dolphins.
According to Weatherly & Otter (2008), environmental and animal rights groups opposed fishing using purse seine nets to catch yellowfish tuna in Eastern Pacific fishery; because the fishing only freed dolphins but exceeded the limit set by the Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972.
Therefore, corporate social responsibility and business ethics have a similar role in the sanity of business as they both aim at promoting discipline and responsibility. The resulting bond is a source of harmony necessary for the smooth operation in most business environments. Corporate social responsibility has been criticized severally, through such claims that corporations are profit-making organizations that aim at giving a higher return to its shareholders and has no obligation to the society as people are supposed to be responsible.
Weatherly, Paul & Otter, Dorron, 2008, The Business Environment: Themes and Issues, Oxford University Press. Web.