Business ethics is a subject which has been with us for a long time, with the 18th century economist Adam Smith noting the dangers of business people getting together and hatching plans to raise prices or otherwise cause damage to the end consumer. Both good and bad business ethics examples can be easily found be looking at real life cases of companies which launch new initiatives, get caught up in scandals or simply stick to the principles which they were founded on.
Bad business ethics
Bad business ethics can be said to be any instance in which a company knowingly ignores the best interests of its employees, customers or the society in general in order to earn more money or otherwise preserve its position. If we look at back at some of the big scandals of recent decades – Enron and Bhopal spring to mind – we can see that bad corporate decisions are often coupled with a strong need for self preservation over and above the good of the world wide community.
Other examples which we can find even today include the use of “sweatshop” slave labor, animal testing, exploitation of child labor and the greed which drives multinational companies to contaminate river systems and even oceans in an attempt to cut costs in their clean up operations. The corporate approach to unethical behavior has even led, in the most extreme examples perhaps, to large scale conflicts. A prime example would be the wars fought in developing countries that have been used as pawns by powerful firms only interested in getting hold of fabulous natural resources. One example of this approach would be the Chaco War between Paraguay and Bolivia, the bloodiest South American conflict of the last century, which was largely instigated by profit hungry oil companies. More common examples can be found every day in companies which ignore employee rights or staff safety in order to save some money.
Good business ethics
Good business ethics also comes in many forms. Think of companies which have encouraged a more ecological approach, a fairer treatment to suppliers or a more employee friendly style of management. In an ideal world these types of business ethics examples would lead to great public recognition and greater profits for the stakeholders promoting them. Sadly this is not always the case, and the proliferation of bad business ethics throughout history tells us that people indulge in these kinds of acts because they can often bring big financial benefits to the firm concerned. This is the real dilemma at the heart of business ethics; stick to your values or aim to make a fast buck no matter what the consequences are.
Of course, ethics in a business environment can also pay dividends for those firms who know the power or good business practices and how to effectively let the world know of them. As consumers become ever more informed about how the business world works the best hope for us seeing great business ethics examples in the future is the pressure which this can bring on large firms to carry out their work in a clear, transparent and fair manner.