Business ethics (also known as Corporate ethics) is a form of applied ethics or professional ethics that examines ethical principles and moral or ethical problems that arise in a business environment. It applies to all aspects of business conduct and is relevant to the conduct of individuals and business organizations as a whole. Applied ethics is a field of ethics that deals with ethical questions in many fields such as medical, technical, legal and business ethics.
Business Ethics is a normative and a descriptive discipline. As a corporate practice and a career specialization, the field is primarily normative. In academia descriptive Business ethics approaches are also taken. The range and quantity of business ethical issues reflects the degree to which business is perceived to be at odds with non-economic social values. Historically, interest in business ethics accelerated dramatically during the 1980s and 1990s, both within major corporations and within academia. For example, today most major corporate websites lay emphasis on commitment to promoting non-economic social values under a variety of headings (e.g. ethics codes, social responsibility charters). In some cases, corporations have redefined their core values in the light of business ethical considerations (e.g. BP's “beyond petroleum Business ethics” environmental tilt).
Discussion on ethics in business is necessary because business can become unethical, and there are plenty of evidences as in today on unethical corporate practices. Even Adam Smith opined that “People of the same trade seldom meet together, even for merriment and diversion, but the conversation ends in a conspiracy against the public or in some contrivance to raise prices”. Business does not operate in a vacuum. Firms and corporations operate in the social and natural environment. By virtue of existing in the social and natural environment, business is duty bound to be accountable to the Business ethics natural and social environment in which it survives. Irrespective of the demands and pressures upon it, business by virtue of its existence is bound to be ethical. Is this a fact or an opinion? There are at least two reasons: one, because whatever the business does affects its stakeholders and two, because every juncture of action has trajectories of ethical as well as unethical paths wherein the existence of the business is justified by ethical alternatives it responsibly chooses. One of the conditions that brought business ethics to the forefront is the demise of small scale, high trust and face-to Business ethics-face enterprises and emergence of huge multinational corporate structures capable of drastically affecting everyday lives of the masses.
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