The Role of Ethics in Tomorrow's Society

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The Role of "Ethics"
in Tomorrow's Society


Abia Bassey Edet


Ethics pervades business decision making in all spheres of production, finance, marketing and distribution, and customer relations. The operational challenge is therefore the extent to which business decision-makers incorporate ethical standards openly into their business strategy, business management processes, and the creation of an environment in which ethical codes are practiced by “commission” as opposed to such codes being violated by “omission”.

Companies today live in a pressure of expectations, personal and organizational, and often financial. At the same time it is clear that there are persistent concerns about corporate ethics that raise important questions about whether there is a sufficient commitment to ethical decision-making and, frequently, a cynicism that there is not. This article explores ways to strengthen and assure a high standard of ethical conduct, and the role of leaders in making this happen.

. In this paper, we are exploring ethics beyond compliance programs, ethics training, codes of conduct, values statements, and company policy. I will use these as important contributors to an ethical environment, but my focus is the likely role of "ethics" in tomorrow's society from a business perspective and the everyday life of the organization where our values rub up against reality.


Business ethics (also known as corporate ethics) is a form of applied ethics or professional ethics that examines ethical principles and moral or ethical problems that arise in a business environment. It applies to all aspects of business conduct and is relevant to the conduct of individuals and business organizations as a whole. Applied ethics is a field of ethics that deals with ethical questions in many fields such as medical, technical, legal and business ethics.

Business ethics can be both a normative and a descriptive discipline. As a corporate practice and a career specialization, the field is primarily normative. In academia descriptive approaches are also taken. The range and quantity of business ethical issues reflects the degree to which business is perceived to be at odds with non-economic social values. Historically, interest in business ethics accelerated dramatically during the 1980s and 1990s, both within major corporations and within academia. For example, today most major corporate websites lay emphasis on commitment to promoting non-economic social values under a variety of headings (e.g. ethics codes, social responsibility charters). In some cases, corporations have redefined their core values in the light of business ethical considerations.

Some years ago, sociologist Raymond Baumhart asked business people; "What does ethics mean to you?" Among their replies were the following [1]:

"Ethics has to do with what my feelings tell me is right or wrong." "Ethics has to do with my religious beliefs."
"Being ethical is doing what the law requires."
"Ethics consists of the standards of behavior our society accepts." "I don't know what the word means."

These replies might be typical of our own. The meaning of "ethics" is hard to pin down, and the views many people have about ethics are shaky. Like Baumhart's first respondent, many people tend to equate ethics with their feelings. But being ethical is clearly not a matter of following one's feelings. A person following his or her feelings may recoil from doing what is right. In fact, feelings frequently deviate from what is ethical. One should not identify ethics with religion. Most religions, of course, advocate high ethical standards. Yet if ethics were confined to religion, then ethics would apply only to religious people. But ethics applies as much to the behavior of the atheist as to that of the saint. Religion can set high ethical standards and can provide intense motivations for ethical behavior. Ethics,...
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