What Is Business Ethics?

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What is business ethics? Would you agree that ultimately business ethics is a complete paradox, an absurd contradiction, and therefore largely a pointless exercise?

In different periods of time, scholars provide different focuses for business ethics: systematic focus at the beginning, while organisational focus followed and individual focus at present (Fisher and Lovell, 2006). Although focuses of business ethics at different period of time are different, the basic principle and standards of business ethics is along with the social morality standards acknowledged by the society. However, being complex than social issues, commercial business involves diverse interests or benefits of different stakeholders and diverse different development objectives at different stages. Although the ultimately business ethics is a paradox, it cannot imply that ultimately business ethics is an absurd contradiction which is a pointless exercise. On the contrary, business ethics is useful in directing commercial business behaviour in both organisational and individual levels (Ferrell, Fraedrich & Ferrell, 2000). In order to discuss the nature of business ethics as well as its exercise or function, this essay is going to discuss definition and nature of business ethics firstly. Following that, this essay will explain ultimately business ethics is a complete paradox but business ethics is not an absurd contradiction. Therefore, this essay will demonstrate that business ethics is not a pointless exercise.

Business Ethics
According to Crane and Matten (2007), business ethics is a phenomenon rather than a paradox although it is inevitably has disagreements on ethical business activities or unethical business activities, there is agreement on the principle of faire trade. Therefore, Crane and Matten (2007) provide the definition of business ethics as situation, activity, decision making aspects inside business corporations in whether they are right or wrong. Although the definition is simple, there are more implications than simple definition. First of all, the principle for right or wrong in business activities are in accordance with morally right or wrong, which is also in accordance with social normal moral standards. In other words, the right or wrong issue in business ethics does not involve the consideration on the business strategic development or financial strategy. Besides, the concept of business in business ethics not only refers to commercial business organizations such as commercial enterprises but also refers to diverse market commercial actors ranging from governmental institutions, NGOs, or even not-for-profit organizations (Fisher and Lovell, 2006). This is because although not all businesses are involving in profit searching activities, their daily activities are mostly involved in commercial market. For example, no matter commercial enterprise or NGOs will face the issue of advertising during their marketing strategy (Parker, 1998); therefore, both of them should consider the faire competition principle in their advertisements, which is the reflection of business ethics.

According to Epsetin (1989), the nature of ethics is the re-consideration of social moral as well as the behaviour choice of individual or organisations. Actually, no moral thinking or choice will be explored in a vacuum, which means specific facts or environment will provide impacts on the choice. Business ethics will be helpful in identifying individual or organisation’s rights and responsibilities during their business behaviour and assess whether their thinking or behaviour is suitable comparing with other people or organisation in the business world. Therefore, business ethics is a choice or behaviour in the business world as a reflection of social moral reflection (Ferrell et al., 2000). Instead of providing an evaluation standard for every individual or organisation to following, business ethics is aiming at providing a...
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