Is Ethical Behaviour in Business Just a Contradiction in Terms?

Topics: Ethics, Business ethics, Morality Pages: 3 (607 words) Published: January 6, 2013


Is Ethical Behaviour in Business Just a Contradiction in Terms?


Business ethics is the study of business situations, activities and decisions where issues of right and wrong are addressed (Crane & Matten 2004). The words “right” and “wrong” refer to morally right or wrong, moreover “business” refers to commercial businesses, government organisations and even not-for-profit businesses. Business ethics is a highly controversial area subject area, with many arguments over exactly what constitutes ethical behaviour. The goal of ethics is to enable people to make better decisions, not to lay down a set of rules to be followed, but to develop a wider appreciation of relevant factors which affect the resolution of a problem. Difficulties began to arise where possible courses of action involve a mixture of harm and good consequences, or require a choice between harmful and good consequences.

Business ethics, it has been claimed (Collins, 1994) is an oxymoron. By this, Collins means that business ethics is a contradiction in terms, he claims these words do not go together, with the assumption businesses are simply out to make a profit and therefore are amoral. Business ethics has also been described as a game of poker (Carr, 1968). This argument was based on the opinion that business was not subject to the same moral standards and it was possible to deceive and lie.

Ethical investment is the use of ethical social and environmental criteria in the selection and management of investment portfolios (Cowton 1994). Ethical investors care not only for the risk of their financial return but also for its source: the nature of the company’s products, methods of their production and sale, location of business, these are non-commercial motives. These points listed will be evaluated and discussed in detail.


To investigate, through a case study approach, the main ethical problems that businesses face and their...
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