Business ethics is the study of ethical dilemmas, values, and moral and ethical problems that arise in the business environment. Most businesses have a code of ethics that they require each employee to understand and abide by. These are the restrictions and regulations for how employees are to conduct their work habits, social interaction with other employees and customers, and it usually sets the foundation for the progression of the business itself. They are also sometimes a portrayal of services provided by the business and should always exalt high ethical standards.
In this paper I am going to touch base on general applied business ethics that are common in most businesses today, international ethics that are essential when working with business around the globe, and my religious views had they play a critical role in business ethics. General ethics are applied to all businesses and some specific areas of a business involve different applications such as accounting, marketing, production, and human resources. I will talk about each one of these as they all have variations in ethical responsibility.
Corporate social responsibility or CSR is a form of a corporation’s self regulation that is integrated into the model of the business. CSR functions as a built-in mechanism that allows the business to monitor and make sure that it follows and adheres to the law, and to the high ethical standards established. Accounting has a system in place on how financial statements and information are to be handled and dealt with. In today’s society greed has become a common motivator for many that work with the accounting department and can sometimes lead to illegal acts such as insider trading, bribery, securities fraud, and many more.
Insider trading and securities fraud are criminal affairs that concern the financial market being manipulated. Executive compensation is when the CEO’s and the upper management receive large excessive paychecks. Things like bribery can sometimes seem like a good short term investment but can alter how the values are upheld within the business and can be ant-competitive. Arthur Andersen’s account firm had some of the most notable accounting scandals in this country, Enron and WorldCom.
These two companies filed bankruptcy due to all the fraudulent activity that the accountants were responsible for and it lead to hefty fines and jail time for some of those that were involved. It is never worth it when a person’s or business’ name is on the line. It is so important that any business establishes a solid model of how they want the company ran and it is essential to uphold the highest standards in business ethics to maintain an honest and fair relationship with not only its customers but its employees as well. Marketing has different elements that bring in more ethical standards.
When you see an ad on TV it is often targeted to a certain audience and it often shows its product to be the best in the competition. Just recently I have seen more and more commercials for car insurance and I am surprised at how many of them now name other top companies and they claim to offer better coverage at a more affordable rate. All State commercials have recently attacked GEICO, claiming that the average customer that switches from GEICO to them save over 400 dollars. Even if it was true I don’t particularly like their calling out of another company by name.
It seems like when I was younger that was not done very often. They usually just referred to their competition as, “competition”. I am not saying its wrong but things certainly have changed. The other problem I have with marketing is how everything seems more and more sexual. I am appalled at another commercial for a greenhouse and lawn service company that is local. If their name wasn’t plant related I would think it was an advertisement for porn. I think this is an area in business where the standard needs to be re-established a lot higher.
Production is one of the few aspects of a business where I believe, or like to believe, has not been just let go. Quality is still a very important thread in the weave of a business. No matter how they market or spend their money if they don’t offer the best for the price then they will not last long. I know many companies try to cut corner and can sometimes look over detail and that is usually when a recall is issued and that cost a lot of money to a company. This puts pressure on them to get it right the first time and to take necessary precautions to avoid that fiasco.
I know one year I did a research project on formula and I compared it to breast milk. I was so astonished with my findings that I refused to give any of my children formula. I was more amazed at how formula had been so widely marketed and how they practically give it away when you have a child that they were not selling the product but the convenience of using their product. Even the formula companies know that formula can’t hold a candle to breast milk and it is one of the largest markets in the United States. Every brand of formula has had at least one recall and some of them have had many for erious faults like bacteria and e-colei contaminants. Human resources is the last aspect of a business where I will touch base with the ethical components. This is a critical part of any employment establishment. It is here where people are hired and it is here where many of the personnel decisions are made. It is critical to have a highly trained staff when it comes to conducting an interview and when it comes to training new hires. In business law class we went over many different questions that a Human Resources interviewer can not ask an interviewee.
Things like age, birthplace, family circumstances, and many others can not be asked because it could impair the result of the interview due to discrimination or being partial to someone not based on things that are only important to the job. I have to admit there were many questions that I did not realize were unethical or even illegal for an interviewer to ask. Questions like, are you a US citizen, When is your birthday, how tall are you, do you have any disabilities, and When did you graduate from high school?
All of these seem reasonable to me but I can see where they could also cause someone their job if it were to reveal a fact about someone that could be construed into a reason to not hire them. International affairs, like general business affairs require a much stricter guideline in the realm of ethical procedures and protocol. Some many different countries have jumped on board with expanding their countries businesses and resources, it seems almost impossible to imagine a world without the reliance on one another for products, materials, and services.
It is also here where we need to be most careful and respectful of each cultural background and consider how they see business deals. The same standards would apply to accounting and more would need to be applied to marketing since it would take knowledge of the cultures and lifestyles to those occupying a company we have interest to expand to or one that we want to partner with. It is not just in the selling of products but we have to be thoughtful with our words and be open minded to change and integration.
Recently we had a missionary come to our church and his focus was preaching the gospel to the Muslim people. He was so knowledge in the Word of God but what astounded me more was how knowledged he was at the Muslim culture and how without the knowledge that he possessed about them he would not be an effective witness. The same goes to the business world. When we want to be accepted by other countries and their people no matter whether it is here in the States or in another country it is important to understand what they consider to be ethical.
I think the that United States does a really good job at making outsiders feel welcome and by offering Equal Opportunity employment we welcome their differences and try to fit everyone’s needs under one umbrella for the good of the company. With all of the important elements that establish the foundation of a business covered I believe that there is one important element that is far to often left out and yet it is the foundation on which this country was built and without it we would not even be able to know what is right or wrong, moral or ethical, and that is the Bible.
I know in my personal life that whenever I have a decision that has to be made it is such a relief and comfort to know that I have the answer at my fingers tips. I think it is just as important to have that reassurance. The global and historical importance of religious views on business ethics is often underestimated in typical introduction to business ethics. Especially over in the Middle East and in Asia, religious views and their cultural preferences are what has strongly influenced their business conduct and their conception of values in the business environment.
To fully understand business ethics requires knowing how to be a respectable and honest citizen of this planet and not just of our country. It is a chance to embrace new horizons and to seek understanding with those that are different from us. It is also a chance for us to do business in all parts of the world. As Christian’s, may we see this as an opportunity to unite our Christian ethics with our business ethics and allow God’s light to be seen by all. References: Carkson, K. W. , Miller, K. W. ,LeRoy, R. , Gaylord, A, & Cross, F. (2009) Business Law Text and Cases Ohio: South-Western, Cengage Learning. ISBN: 0-324-65522-3.