Ethics

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Chapter 1, Introducing Business Ethichs

What is business ethics?
Business Ethics (BE) has been called an oxymoron. By an oxymoron, we mean the bringing together of two apparently contradictory concepts. The statement also suggests that there are not, or cannot be, ethics in business. However, there appears to be good reason to suggest that business ethics as a phenomenon, and as a subject, is not an oxymoron. Whilst there will be disagreements about what exactly constitutes “ethical” business activity, it is possible to introduce a fairly uncontroversial definition of the subject itself:

The subject of business ethics are:
“Business Ethics is the study of business situations, activities, and decisions where issues of right and wrong are addressed”.

It is worth stressing that by “right” and “wrong” we mean morally right and wrong. E.g. commercially, strategically or financially right or wrong. Moreover, by “business ethics” we do not mean only commercial business, but also government organizations, pressure groups, non-for-profit businesses, charities and other organizations.

Business ethics and the law
There is considerable overlap between ethics and the law. The law might be said to be a definition of the minimum acceptable standards of behavior. BE is primarily concerned with those issues not covered by the law, or where there is no definite consensus on whether something is right or wrong. In one sense, BE can be said to begin where the law ends. BE is about the grey areas of business, or where values are in conflict. Studying BE should help you make better decisions, but this is not the same as making right decisions.

Defining morality, ethics, and ethical theory
* 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 a given situation. * These rules and principles are called ethical theories.

Ethics rationalizes morality.. To produce ethical theory.. Applicable to any situation!

Why is Business ethics important?
1.) The power and influence of business in society is greater than ever before * BE helps us understand why this is happening, what its implications might be, and how we can address the situation

2.) Business has the potential to provide a major contribution to our societies * BE helps us understand whether this contribution could be positive or negative

3.) Business malpractices have the potential to inflict harm on individuals, communities and environment * BE helps us understand more of the consequences of and causes of these malpractices

4.) Increasing demands from stakeholders
* BE provides the means to understand these challenges more clearly, in order that firms can meet these expectations more effectively

5.) Few business people have formal BE education or training * BE can help us to identify, analyze and provide solutions to ethical dilemmas in work life

6.) Business ethics can stimulate responsible thinking and conduct Globalization: A key context for Business ethics?
“Globalization is a process which diminishes the necessity of a common and shared territorial basis for social, economic, and political activities, processes and relations” (definition).

Globalization is a very controversial topic in the public debate, and the camps seem to be divided into supporters and critics, there is also some doubt whether globalization is really even happening at all.

Globalization as defined in terms of the deterritorializaion of economic activities is particularly relevant for BE, in three main areas: culture, law and accountability.

Cultural issues
As a result of globalization, corporations are often finding...
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