Theory post | Business ethics

Why shouldn’t businesses promote ethical practices? I think most people would agree workers want fair wages, safe working conditions, health benefits, paid leave, etc. Now ask the question to yourself again but remember, we’re living in a free market economy. That’s where the debate lies: the definition and function of a free market economy. Many people believe the sole purpose of a business is to profit. I agree to a certain extent but there are also many people that think in a profit-at-all costs mindset. On the other hand, I believe corporate greed has gone out of control. Both years prior to the Great Depression and 2008 financial crash were peak years for income concentration. During the periods of economic boom, incomes gaps were almost nonexistent (source). I do not believe regulation of business practices and corporate social responsibility will bring an end to this issue. Instead, I think education on what creates a strong, profitable business will eventually change others’ beliefs. A course on business ethics is required in many university business programs, but the goal is not to just change company policies. The goal is for businesses to center their purpose on the greater good and to realize it’s in their best interests as well to keep their employees happy and satisfied.

Here is Fortune’s list of the 100 best companies to work for. In particular, SAS (software company located in Cary, NC) and Google, who modeled their company benefits after SAS, have been well praised for their company culture. A quick read through and hopefully you will realize that the employees that are best cared for naturally lift the company up higher and achieve greater results.

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2 thoughts on “Theory post | Business ethics

  1. I agree with your concession that the free market economy drives a particular aspect of businesses that leads to what you called a “profit-at-all costs mindset”. It is a very complicated issue and no single act or government regulation could serve as a solution or else people would have found it already. I would be interested to read about what you think the most logical solution to combating corporate greed that leads to unsafe labor conditions, low pay, and poor laborer-employer relations. You mentioned that Google is an example of a very profitable and successful business that doesn’t exploit laborers in unethical ways. However, do you think this is in part due to the fact that Google is a company that is in the spotlight and highly scrutinized so they are forced to abide by ethical practices? I am not sure if they were always that way or only adapted to those ideals after making it to the public sphere. It would be a good point to clarify on. Overall this is a very well done post!

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  2. Thanks for the comment! I’m not really sure what the most practical way of ending corporate greed would be and I think that’s what my post was lacking. My opinion is that companies would realize their practices are unsustainable in the long-run. For example, Monsanto is currently having financial difficulties and as a result, are planning to layoff a couple thousand workers. This is no doubt due to the bad press they’ve been receiving creating public resistance and thus lowering the demand of their GM products. That’s an interesting question about Google and definitely one I asked myself when I was writing this post. From what I’ve read, the founders envisioned Google to have an amazing work environment so they adapted SAS’s company culture early on and this ultimately helped them attract the best employees who helped build the Google we know today. If you’re interested in reading more about business ethics and branding, it was my main focus for my analysis post and I analyzed companies such as Patagonia, who built their brand around environmental responsibility, and Nike, who had to overcome public scrutiny over unsafe working conditions and child labor in their sweatshops.

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