What is Business Ethics?

Garry Crystal

Business ethics is the behavior that a business adheres to in its daily dealings with the world. The ethics of a particular business can be diverse. They apply not only to how the business interacts with the world at large, but also to their one-on-one dealings with a single customer.

An ethical business sells products it believes to be safe.
An ethical business sells products it believes to be safe.

Many businesses have gained a bad reputation just by being in business. To some people, businesses are interested in making money, and that is the bottom line. It could be called capitalism in its purest form. Making money is not wrong in itself. It is the manner in which some businesses conduct themselves that brings up the question of ethical behavior.

The historic use of child labor is now considered to be unethical.
The historic use of child labor is now considered to be unethical.

Good business ethics should be a part of every business. There are many factors to consider. When a company does business with another that is considered unethical, does this make the first company unethical by association? Some people would say yes, the first business has a responsibility and it is now a link in the chain of unethical businesses.

Reporting false financial information in a business consultation is unethical.
Reporting false financial information in a business consultation is unethical.

Many global businesses, including most of the major brands that the public use, can be seen not to think too highly of good business ethics. Many major brands have been fined millions for breaking ethical business laws. Money is the major deciding factor.

Many people refuse to buy items manufactured in sweat shops.
Many people refuse to buy items manufactured in sweat shops.

If a company does not adhere to business ethics and breaks the laws, they usually end up being fined. Many companies have broken anti-trust, ethical and environmental laws and received fines worth millions. The problem is that the amount of money these companies are making outweighs the fines applied. Billion dollar profits blind the companies to their lack of business ethics, and the dollar sign wins.

A business may be a multi-million seller, but does it use good business ethics and do people care? There are popular soft drinks and fast food restaurants that have been fined time and time again for unethical behavior. Business ethics should eliminate exploitation, from the sweat shop children who are making sneakers to the coffee serving staff who are being ripped off in wages. Business ethics can be applied to everything from the trees cut down to make the paper that a business sells to the ramifications of importing coffee from certain countries.

In the end, it may be up to the public to make sure that a company adheres to correct business ethics. If the company is making large amounts of money, they may not wish to pay too close attention to their ethical behavior. There are many companies that pride themselves in their correct business ethics, but in this competitive world, they are becoming very few and far between.

Failing to replace a damaged or defective item is one example of poor business practices.
Failing to replace a damaged or defective item is one example of poor business practices.

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Discussion Comments


When thing go awry in a business, that's a point where ethics makes an escape through the window. To be a good business; business must be good. And when business is good, the company would most likely keep its ethical integrity.


@anon33890 Post 14: Sure. How can I help?


Why is ethical management important in business?


can i ask who is the author of this?


Explain major factors that influence business ethics.


I have an interview for a business course coming up and have been asked to write a 500 word essay on what I believe business ethics are and how they apply to businesses. Can someone please help with this?

From what I understand. business ethics are pretty much a company contract or policy which is a guideline for all involved in that business to follow including not just profit but fairness to employees, suppliers, etc. Am I on the right lines with this? Thank you.


I am studying towards a Business Science degree. As a future business person, I think it is crucial to know more about business ethics!


this is a good article to introduce business ethics.


The article doesn't tell you a lot about what you need to know about business ethics, just a basic outline. i think that it would be more informative if you added more examples and information on what the pubic finds ethical in a business situation.


The vast majority of businesses are ethical. We should not condemn all businesses for the actions of a few. An honest statistical analysis of good versus bad would confirm this point. Just ask yourself this question: Are you working for an overtly unethical company? If you answered yes, then you are part of the problem.


what are the code of ethics in the computer industry?


very good article. I intend to built an exam around it for my students and talk the issue over with them.


People like milton friedman can be directly held responsible for the business disasters like the bhopal tragedy and enron scandal, as he believed and propagated the concept that business people should only make profits as they don't have expertise in social tasks, meaning make profit forget ethics. This is evident from the unhindered advance of the corporates in exploiting the resources world over.


Ethics is as much a part of business as oil is a part of water. It is inevitable that a business should work with or against the moral standard. Simply put, a rim of paper here is one less tree there.

Morals have no mediation because they measure human emotion. Business is a measure of quantified values.

In the end, where business is binary, then ethics is analog.

A business is only as ethical as the people who run it. No, that is wrong. A business is only as ethical as the bad taste it leaves in your mouth when you've swallowed the good stuff.


those people saying you're wrong are wrong. well done.


Has this person ever run a business? I doubt it. The article reads like an MSNBC rant, just absurd. 99 percent of US businesses are run in an ethical manner. The ones that aren't are newsworthy.

This author doesn't add anything to help. The real issues are when there are different interpretations of right and wrong due to cultural, societal or personal standards. How does a business resolve these issues?


why are the big companies failing to be ethical? good ethical levels in a company mean good productivity for the company.


i love what you have but seems it's hard to save the work for future reference. Anyway, good work. keep it up.


what are business consequences and why are they necessary?


Can i ask a question? When is business considered as capitalistic? Thanks.


business ethics should be like trust. van b.


This a great website. Thank you so much!


all i want is to know a good type of business ethics, not the bad type!


I am so thankful for your insightful discussion on business ethics. please keep it up!

luciano, Makerere University-Uganda


Why is it important?


why is business so important?


where can I find information on business ethics in germany?


I want to be a business professor. How will I teach my students to make good decisions, ethically?


Is Unocal morally responsible for the injuries inflicted on some of the karen people? explain?


there are many ways that people understand business ethics, but not all of them are right. in order to really understand business ethics, one should go over the examples of Enron, Cadbury, Walmart, Starbucks, etc. This is how one can really understand the need of business ethics and the impact it has on major businesses.

one more thing: business ethics cannot always be seen in a negative perspective. for example, The Body Shop stopped animal testing and has dedicated itself for the good of the society. that is one promising business ethic. TAHA


If you personally want others to treat you in the right way that you deserve but not in the wrong way, it means that you want people should treat you in an ethical way.

As such, business ethics are similar. It should treat with others, whether internal or external, in the right way without crossing the lines, and this means business should be ethical as it exists.


please help me about my assignment. what is the code of ethics of the course in business information management? can anyone answer this?


the above article is short but it is good and moral. Business not only for making money it is much higher than that. It is all about reputation in market, rapport with suppliers of yours and mostly probably customer count. Always the proverb is true and proves that the customer or client or guest is treated as God and God is happy, then all is well. Business is a way to make good relations with all, even if it is concern about finance, relations with supplier or guest or costumer. --Neeraj


give three reasons why businesses should operate under an ethical policy?


i like this article, but i need some more good points to add in my essay on business ethics, of 350 words. can anybody make for me with references? Thanks.


what do you associate business with?


I blame social isolation.


how can the public can make sure that a company adheres to correct business ethics?


Can anyone do my business ethics homework for me? Rather than doing the work myself and gaining an understanding of ethics that would help me better navigate the business world, I figured I'd post the questions here and wait for someone else to answer it for me. Thanks!


Can anyone examine critically the inevitability of ethics in business activities?


pls i need your help to solve the question "examine critically the inevitability of ethics in business activities." thanks


Which one of these (Metaethics, Normative ethics, applied ethics) is best for making business decisions and why?


what are consequences of greed in term of politics or economy of the country?


Which moral philosophy you feel is best suited for making business decisions and why?


the article is very knowledgeable and logical i like the true aspect of the article.


why is it necessary to apply business ethics?




business ethics often is an oxymoron. fortunately, there are some businesses that still demand ethical behavior among its employees, and that's heartening. also, i think one of the number one priorities is treating employees well, and they are often forgotten by employers.

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