By David G. Hennessey
Morality. In today’s world we hear this term a great deal. In religion, politics, wars, etc, morality is spoken from the media, shouted from the roof tops and criticized by men and women alike. Many state that it is an old fashion concept, out of date and out of step with modern society and we need not follow it. Yet, few people hold to these lines when they hear of some scandal, some business dealing, some political mess that has gone awry and thus has been catapulted into the mainstream of everyday society. Then we care.
So what is it about morality that makes us fight against it, hold fast to it or try to avoid it? And where are the lines that once were so easily drawn but now seem so obscure? And whose morality is it? Who makes the laws and who says that one thing is right while another is wrong? So many questions, but is there an easy answer?
When it comes to business decisions and corporations in particular, can we have a “one standard fits all” reality? With many voices and many opinions, when do we know for certain that what our corporate decision makers are thinking and if they are considering the long term effect of their decisions or just the short haul? Only by examining their motives, their history or their goals might we find some answers that could enlighten our understanding of their minds. Morality is an issue of the highest importance and corporate decision making must be made with society morality in mind and with the common good at heart.
According to the referenceforbusiness.com website, “Most people involved in business—whether functioning as a small business owner, employee, or chief executive officer of a multinational company—eventually face ethical or moral dilemmas in the workplace. Such dilemmas are usually complex, for they force the person making the decision to weigh the benefits that various business decisions impart on individuals (including him or herself) and groups with the negative repercussions that those same decisions usually have on other individuals or groups. LaRue Hosmer, a business ethics expert who teaches at the University of Michigan, observed that reaching a "right" or "just" conclusion when faced with moral problems can be a bewildering and vexing proposition. But he contended that businesspeople are likely to reach and act on morally appropriate decisions if they do not lose sight of the fundamental issue of fairness. Those who get sidetracked by issues of profitability and legality in gauging the morality of a business decision, on the other hand, often reach ethically skewed choices. As has been proven time and again in the business world, the legality of a course of action may be utterly irrelevant to its "rightness." In addition, any discussion of business ethics is a subjective one, for everyone brings different concepts of ethical behavior to the table. These moral standards are shaped by all sorts of things, from home environment to religious upbringing to cultural traditions” (referenceforbusiness.com, 2012).
Let’s examine one company that has thought about the issue from the get-go. Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream is a company in the USA. At the core of their company is a mission statement that says the following:
“To operate the company in a way that actively recognizes the central role that business plays in society by initiating innovative ways to improve the quality of life locally, nationally, and internationally!
To make, distribute, and sell the finest quality all natural ice cream and euphoric concoctions with a continued commitment to incorporating wholesome, natural ingredients and promoting business practices that respect the earth and the environment.
To operate the company on a sustainable financial basis of profitable growth, increasing value for our stakeholders, and expanding...