What is Business Ethics?


It may seem that the concept of “business ethics” is an oxymoron (contradiction in terms).  Can a business BE ethical — ethics asks the question of how we should behave… and businesses aren’t “people”…

But, businesses do “act” — since they express the collective actions of a group of people.  So, for the purposes of our discussion, we’ll assume that a business could, possibly be ethical or unethical.

In the most general terms, ethics concerns duties.  So, what are the duties concerning businesses?  There are three kinds of actors in this equation, the “business”, individual persons and “society”… Think of them in a triangle (I’m not good with graphics and things…) with a double-sided arrow ( < ——- > ) between each actor and you’ll get a decent visual…..

In the most general way the question asks what each actor owes to the other two members of the triangle — so, businesses have duties to individuals (employees, customers, shareholders) and to “society”, individuals have duties to “society” and businesses and “society” has duties to individuals and businesses.

Philosophically, those duties may be based on one of many different ethical theories.  The convenient, and sometimes frustrating, thing about ethical theories is that they may be applicable to a variety of topics at any given time.  Also, in many instances, an ethical theory may not provide a definitive answer to an ethical quandary.

So… that’s a start… following posts will discuss specific issues..


Leave a comment

Filed under Business Ethics

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s