An Introduction to Business and Management Ethics by Mike Harrison

By Mike Harrison

This article offers an advent to a couple of the foremost demanding situations dealing with an individual occupied with criteria of behaviour in firms. It begins from a attention of the assets supplied by means of philosophical ethics and strikes directly to ponder the demanding situations inherent in operating in a aggressive company atmosphere.

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Deontology’ is the term given to the study of moral obligations and this is usually contrasted with consequentialism as described below. A key writer in this area is Immanuel Kant who formulated a general prescription of how we should always act, the Categorical Imperative. Theories which focus on actions can sound as if an assumption is being made that the agent, that is, the moral actor in a given context, has a free choice in decision-making. In a business context, however, we are more likely to be in a situation of drastically constrained action.

This practical point should not be forgotten if effective ethical action is intended. Care and judgement is required even in this very basic stage of deciding who is really affected in a given context. One approach, of course, is simply to note what legal and contractual duties exist with respect to other individuals and draw the stakeholder boundaries for ethical analysis with this in mind. A strategic use of stakeholder concepts is likely to draw different boundaries; customers are likely to be of greater importance to the survival of an enterprise than a purely legalistic view of the world will show.

If one alternatively considers stakeholders in a public service context, for example local government or the health service, not only does the complexity increase but also the ambiguity of who exactly qualifies as a stakeholder. It is easy to argue in many cases that everyone (individual or corporate) is a stakeholder in some way! Whilst it is important to remember from an ethical standpoint that one’s actions may affect such a wide range of people, it can also lead to the abandonment of any idea of systematic stakeholder consultation and analysis as impractical.

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