Parameters of Ethical Decision Making
WalMart – An Ethical Approach?
WalMart is the largest retailer in the world, with a global reach in 27 countries, including the United States. The company interacts with millions of consumers and stockholders, and maintains relationships with thousands of suppliers, vendors and manufacturers around the world. In addition, the company must negotiate with local, state and federal government agencies in all these locations. It is incumbent upon WalMart to act ethically with all these stakeholders in order to maintain successful operations. To that end, the ethical approaches summarized below are available to WalMart. Utilitarian – Most useful for large groups and populations, the utilitarian approach can best be summed up as “the means justifies the end.” An act that produces the greatest benefit to the most people is morally right (Weiss, 2009). The downside of this approach is that actions taken to achieve a greater benefit may in fact be immoral, unethical and possibly illegal. This is a results-oriented approach that gives little consideration to specific acts. Universalism – Unlike the utilitarian approach, universalism seeks equal treatment and respect for the individual (p. 105). In a stakeholder analysis, individual needs influence the decision-making process. The downside of this approach is that not all actions can be taken equally. There are times when a special circumstance requires a different response not available in all other situations. This is a trust-based approach that produces ethical results while respecting individuals. Rights – Individual rights are considered entitlements that form the basis of our legal system – the right to free speech, freedom of religion, etc. In the rights approach, individual rights are upheld without interference from others; in addition, individuals seek protection of their rights through legal and/or public resources (p. 109). The downside of a rights approach is that some individuals may manipulate the legal system or public resources to their own ends. Also, fair treatment becomes less relevant with this approach when the focus remains on the individual rather than what may benefit all. This is an individual-centric approach that may or may not foster ethical behavior. Justice – To facilitate fairness, the justice approach focuses on two main principles: 1) Equal treatment for all and 2) Everyone is afforded equal opportunity to the same freedoms and advantages, although with no assurance of equal distribution of wealth (p. 111). Justice is comprised of four main parts – Compensatory, Retributive, Distributive and Procedural, all administered within societal groups and specific governmental systems (Weiss). An added component of this approach is how well it pairs with the Rights theme noted above. The downside of this approach outside of a legal or rules-based system is agreeing on who sets the rules by which all will be judged. This is a fairness-based approach that respects the right of individuals. Virtue Ethics – Character traits are a primary focus of this approach, which also includes adherence to rules (p. 113). Individual core values drive ethical behavior. Virtue ethics are the result of behavior that conforms to those core values. According to Weiss, “Virtue ethics argue that the possessor of good character is and acts moral, feels good, is happy, and flourishes” (2009). The downside of this approach is that ethical decisions based on virtue ethics may not effectively resolve a dilemma; rather, they may be based more on emotion or core beliefs that do not lend themselves to problem solving. This is a value-based approach that is dependent on core values and beliefs to make moral decisions. The Common Good – Designed to provide individual and group fulfillment, this approach is comprised of multiple systems that interact to sustain the common good – for example, the federal government, legal,...
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