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Business Ethics

Business ethics looks at how we classify the affairs of a business as "right" and "wrong," or "good" and "bad." Business ethics help guide us when we face a moral dilemma as a manager or as a professional. Because of this, we say that business ethics is a form of applied ethics. That is, we use ethical theories in order to make ethical business decisions in the real world.

Ethical Dilemma: Different actions can benefit or harm others or oneself. Balancing these interests, that is, deciding how to act when one person may be harmed to another’s benefit, is an ethical dilemma.

Ethics: The moral principles, values and priorities individuals use to decide an appropriate course of action when faced with an ethical dilemma.

Ethics not only helps us make decisions when we face an ethical dilemma. Theories about ethics help government regulators, professional bodies, and corporate governors to create and implement appropriate rules and regulations for governing the ethical behaviour of organizations and professionals. The three most common forms of ethical theories are deontological, teleological, and virtue ethics.

(1) Deontological ethics is rule-, duty- or rights-based, involves ideas such as justice, equal rights and social contract theories, and includes philosophers such as Immanuel Kant and John Rawls.

(2) Teleological ethics is contrasted with deontological ethics, and looks at moral philosophies such as utilitarianism and consequentialism. These theories suggest that consequences are more important than motives when determining if behavior is moral or not, and that morality is based on achieving the greatest amount of happiness.

(3) The third normative moral philosophy is Virtue Ethics, which does not focus on the motive or consequences of an act; rather, it asks what a behavior says about the type of person someone is.

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