Busines Ethics

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Date Submitted: 01/20/2013 05:51 AM

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PART A Understanding Business Ethics


Introducing Business Ethics

In this chapter we will:

■ Provide a basic introduction to, and definition of, business ethics. ■ Outline the relationship between business ethics and the law. ■ Distinguish between ethics, morality, and ethical theory. ■ Discuss the importance of business ethics at both an academic level and in

terms of practical management in organizations.

■ Consider ethical challenges in different types of organizations. ■ Present globalization as an important, yet contested, concept that

represents a critical context for business ethics.

■ Discuss different international perspectives on business ethics, including

European, Asian, and North American perspectives.

■ Present the ‘triple bottom line’ of sustainability as a key goal for business




■ What is business ethics?

‘A book on business ethics? Well that won’t take long to read!’ ‘You’re taking a course on business ethics? So what do you do in the afternoon?’ ‘Business ethics? I didn’t think there were any!’

These are not very good jokes. Still, that does not seem to have stopped a lot of people from responding with such comments (and others like them) whenever students of business ethics start talking about what they are doing. And even if these are not particularly funny things to say, nor even very original, they do immediately raise an important problem with the subject of business ethics: some people cannot even believe that it exists! Business ethics, it has been claimed, is an oxymoron (Collins 1994). By an oxymoron, we mean the bringing together of two apparently contradictory concepts, such as in ‘a cheerful pessimist’ or ‘a deafening silence’. To say that business ethics is an oxymoron suggests that there are not, or cannot be, ethics in business: that business is in some way unethical (i.e. that business is inherently bad), or that it is, at best, amoral (i.e. outside of our...