Whether on a managerial or a corporate level, business ethics have one overarching purpose: to ensure the company acts as a responsible member of society. Ultimately, it’s about what is best for the business, its employees, its stakeholders, and the community as a whole. Ideally, ethical decisions should be solidly based on this principle, but that is not always easy to define, much to the chagrin of those seeking a business administration degree.
Corporate Social Responsibility
Some ethics are fairly obvious: businesses shouldn’t use copyrighted materials without permission, make bribes, or expose private client information. However, when it comes to a business’s social responsibility, making ethical policies can be a bit trickier. Social responsibility includes such elements as:
- Treating employees fairly
- Minimizing harm to the environment
- Avoiding harm to communities
- Generating a return for stakeholders
The law is usually a good starting point for defining ethical behavior for your workplace. However, some situations may be more difficult to define under the law as ethical or unethical. Additionally, what is legal and what is ethical are not necessarily the same.
Since what is ethical may not necessarily be definable by any set law or regulation, companies are left to resolve business ethics issues on their own. This often leads to a variety of business decisions that are not all consistent across companies and workplaces as a whole. These decisions may not all be good for business either, since they may increase employee turnover, decrease productivity, and sour a company’s public image.
Many companies have a code of ethics ,which is willingly drawn up by business executives and other leaders. These outline the way business should be handled within the company, usually in terms of employee conduct.
Corporate policies may be either comprehensive lists of rules, or they may be broad principles by which various actions are judged.
On a managerial level, decisions about ethical and unethical behavior may be left to a manager or direct report. Often, they will make decisions based on laws, regulations, and company policies. Regardless of the ways in which a company handles business ethics, decisions in the workplace often come down to individual managers. Seeking a business administration degree online can help prepare future managers and leaders to make ethical decisions in the workplace.