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Different writers have defined ethics in their own way. Ethics is exclusive among various professions hence there is no common definition but a variety exist. According to (Megone, 2002) , ethics is “the process of determining right and wrong conduct”. (Megone, 2002) defines ethics as "the discipline dealing with what is good and bad or right and wrong or with moral duty and obligation." He further explains that the word ethics has its roots from the Greek word “ethikos” meaning “moral”, it also draws its meaning from a Latin word “mores” or “customs”. (O, Fraedric, & Ferrel, 2011) defines ethics as “enquiry into the nature and grounds of morality where the term morality is taken to mean moral judgments, standards and rules of conduct”.
(Mann & Roberts, 2009), defines ethics as “a branch of philosophy which is the systematic study of selective choice of the standards of right and wrong and by which it may ultimately be directed.” Different people and institutions derive their standards from religion, philosophy, culture, law, and the unique requirements of specific professions. Business being a profession of its own has got its own ethics.
Business ethics is understood differently by business professionals. According to (O, Fraedric, & Ferrel, 2011), business ethics “comprise the principles, values and standards that guides behavior in the world of business” Mary White in her definition puts business ethics as “written and unwritten codes of principles and values that govern decisions and actions within a company. In the business world, the organization's culture sets standards for determining the difference between good and bad decision making and behavior” According to (Mann & Roberts, 2009), business ethics “as a branch of applied ethics is the study and determination of what is right and good in business settings”. There are various approaches to ethics in decision making including; justice, utilitarianism, rights and virtues.
Basics Ethics Lenses
Utility approach concerns about the actions with the greatest harm or benefit. While making any decision, we must consider taking an action with the greatest benefit and least harm. Further, it also matters who is going to benefit from what activity and who is going to be affected (Manuel Velasquez, 1996). Secondly, rights approach base its explanation on human dignity and their freedom of choice. Every human being has his or her rights and therefore should be respected without manipulation of any kind. A moral ethic is therefore the one that respects ones human rights, otherwise any action that violates such rights are considered wrong. Thirdly, justice approach involves fairness of every action. Its aim is to treat every individual equally in relation to how others are treated without any favor or discrimination of any kind. Finally, virtue approach to ethics assumes that there is a way in which we should behave for us to achieve or to become what we want to be. It assumes that once these virtues are acquired then automatically there is moral ethic in existence.
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Ethical values such as culture, tradition and life experiences are also important in contributing to business ethics. Culture as the way of life differs across societies and hence difference in ethical values. Tradition on the other hand is the practice of culture while life experiences can influence change in various ethics. Life experiences can be good or bad and it is from such that ethics can be modified.
Ethics in decision making
Business ethics help individuals with limited business experience in making decisions about product quality, advertising, pricing, sales techniques, hiring practices, and pollution control. This is because values acquired from family, religion, school and other social settings may not be enough to enable a person to make business related decisions. It also puts one in a position to identify and recognize issues related to business ethics and find a solution. Ethical decision making process helps promote ethical behavior at personal and organizational level.