1.1 Being a Professional of Integrity
Ethics sets the standards that govern our personal and professional behavior. To conduct business ethically, we must choose to be a professional of integrity. The first steps are to ask ourselves how we define success and to understand that integrity calls on us to act in a way that is consistent with our words. There is a distinct difference between legal compliance and ethical responsibility, and the law does not fully address all ethical dilemmas that businesses face. Sound ethical practice meets the company’s culture, mission, or policies above and beyond legal responsibilities. The three normative theories of ethical behavior allow us to apply reason to business decisions as we examine the result (utilitarianism), the means of achieving it (deontology), and whether our choice will help us develop a virtuous character (virtue ethics).
1.2 Ethics and Profitability
A long-term view of business success is critical for accurately measuring profitability. All the company’s stakeholders benefit from managers’ ethical conduct, which also increases a business’s goodwill and, in turn, supports profitability. Customers and clients tend to trust a business that gives evidence of its commitment to a positive long-term impact. By exercising corporate social responsibility, or CSR, a business views itself within a broader context, as a member of society with certain implicit social obligations and responsibility for its own effects on environmental and social well-being.
1.3 Multiple versus Single Ethical Standards
The adoption of a single ethical code is the mark of a professional of integrity and is supported by the reasoned approach of each of the normative theories of business ethics. When we consistently maintain the same values regardless of the context, we are more likely to engender trust among those with whom we interact.