The Definition of Business Ethics

Topics: Ethics, HIV, Morality Pages: 6 (1948 words) Published: November 13, 2010
“The mind of the superior man is conversant with righteousness; the mind of the mean man is conversant with gain” -Confucius.

The Encyclopaedia Britannica defines ethics, also termed as moral philosophy, as a branch of philosophy that seeks to determine the correct applications of moral notions such as good and bad and right and wrong [1]. Business ethics relates to the application of ethical rules and moral values in the context of a business environment. Joseph L Baldaracco, Jr.’s four sphere framework divides business ethics in the form of a manager’s responsibility into four spheres i.e., personal ethical values, responsibilities as economic agents, responsibilities as organization leaders and responsibilities in co-operative capitalism. These four spheres encompass the all the stakes that go into a business manager’s ethical system i.e., his own personal values, his cognizance of responsibility as an economic agent to his shareholders, as organization leader to the well-being, in an all-round sense, of his employees & peers and as a co-operative capitalist to all the businesses that interact and share partnerships and business interests with his firm.

In the context of marketing, ethics assumes a very pertinent role, as marketing is traditionally regarded as an “inherent evil” in a popularist stance. Primarily because of the impression that marketing has a history of: i.Damaging personal autononomy by influencing a person’s buying styles and infringing his self-determination; ii. Causing harm to competitors in saturated markets;

iii. Manipulating social values;
iv. Creating artificiality and influencing sexual attitudes. [2]
Areas of marketing like advertising and media have repeatedly come under the scanner of ethical scrutiny. A prominent reason being that these areas directly speak to large masses of population and have an impact on and influence their mindsets. So, it’s ethically imperative for any firm to be sensitive to these areas and utilize advertising and media to the benefit of their business in a responsible manner. A fairly recent advertising campaign which grabbed the attention of both the masses and the elite and permeated into common conversations and discussions across various cities of India, was the ground-breaking HIV/AIDS awareness campaign undertaken by the Population Services International(PSI). This campaign ran under the innovative and catchy title “Balbir Pasha ko AIDS hoga kya” (Hindi for “Will Balbir Pasha get AIDS”). This campaign was a great success and met its objective of educating people about the various misconceptions and dangers surrounding unsafe sex and particularly targeted high-risk adult males. Market studies after the campaign clearly showed a prominent increase in awareness and improved perceptions on various aspects of contracting AIDS through unsafe sex, particularly with commercial sex workers.   THE ISSUES

Though the campaign was aptly applauded by various sections like the media, government and a majority of common populace, it also received its share of brickbats for having compromised on various ethical issues. The majority of issues raised are as listed below: 1.Cutting edge frankness – “bringing the bedroom into living room”. The argument was that the campaign, particularly the one using television commercials, was very free-spoken and crude. Since Indians usually watch Television with their families, they found it embarrassing and uncomfortable. The commercials included discussions involving the high risk low-earning males. The discussions were outright in explaining the misconceptions involving commercial sex and thus had elements in it which, to the Indian family, would cause discomfort. A screenshot of a sample ad clipping:

2.The second grouse was related to the Indian culture of shyness and taboo when it comes to matters of talking about sex and sexuality openly. The parents simply didn’t want their children to speak about sex...
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