The Idea of Business Ethics
It’s in the best interest of a company to operate ethically. Trustworthy companies are better at attracting and keeping customers, talented employees, and capital. Those tainted by questionable ethics suffer from dwindling customer bases, employee turnover, and investor mistrust.
Let’s begin this section by addressing this question: What can individuals, organizations, and government agencies do to foster an environment of ethical behaviour in business? First, of course, we need to define the term.
What Is Ethics?
You probably already know what it means to be ethical: to know right from wrong and to know when you’re practising one instead of the other. Business ethics is the application of ethical behaviour in a business context. Acting ethically in business means more than simply obeying applicable laws and regulations. It also means being honest, doing no harm to others, competing fairly, and declining to put your own interests above those of your company, its owners, and its workers. If you’re in business you obviously need a strong sense of what’s right and wrong. You need the personal conviction to do what’s right, even if it means doing something that’s difficult or personally disadvantageous.
Why Study Ethics?
Ideally, prison terms, heavy fines, and civil suits would discourage corporate misconduct, but, unfortunately, many experts suspect that this assumption is a bit optimistic. Whatever the condition of the ethical environment in the near future, one thing seems clear: the next generation entering business—which includes most of you—will find a world much different than the one that waited for the previous generation. Recent history tells us in no uncertain terms that today’s business students, many of whom are tomorrow’s business leaders, need a much sharper understanding of the difference between what is and isn’t ethically acceptable. As a business student, one of your key tasks is learning how to recognize and deal with the ethical challenges that will confront you. Asked what he looked for in a new hire, Warren Buffet, the world’s most successful investor, replied: “I look for three things. The first is personal integrity, the second is intelligence, and the third is a high energy level.” He paused and then added: “But if you don’t have the first, the second two don’t matter”. 
- Gostick, A., & Telford D. (2003). The Integrity Advantage. Salt Lake City: Gibbs Smith. ↵