Ethics in Business

by Simon Webley

Introduction

Business ethics is the application of ethical values to business behaviour.

It applies to any and all aspects of business conduct, from boardroom strategies and how companies treat their suppliers to sales techniques and accounting practices. Business ethics is relevant both to the conduct of individuals and to the conduct of the organisation as a whole.

If businesses are to be perceived as acting like good citizens, a policy will be needed to ensure that the highest standard of business behaviour is maintained throughout the organisation.

The usual name for this policy is ‘business ethics’ or ‘the way we work’. If the policy is to be effective, the following requirements must be met:

  • It has to be based on both business and ethical values
  • It must be communicated effectively, usually through a code of ethics
  • It must be implemented
  • It must then be monitored and reported on.

Ethics goes beyond the legal requirements for a company and is, therefore, about discretionary decisions and behaviour guided by values.

To be ethical is profitable; but to be ethical because it is profitable is not ethical.

Peter Koestenbaum

What is in it for a business?

  • Enhanced reputation
  • Lower integrity risks
  • Good staff retention and recruitment
  • And, in the longer term, financial benefits.

This topic explains how an organisation can develop, implement and make effective a business ethics strategy.