The concept of ethics, inside and outside of the workplace, has a distinctly broad definition that includes the morals and values that guide people and judge certain issues and situations as right or wrong, good or bad, fair or unfair, just or unjust, etc. The values that determine the outcomes and classifications of these issues are often determined by societal mores and norms that are meant to guide human behavior. The importance of ethics and values in social responsibility is necessary in the operation of a business. Now more than ever, companies are expected and required to be exemplary figures and examples of social responsibility, defined by Davis and Blomstrom (1975) as “the obligation of decision makers to take actions which protect and improve the welfare of society as a whole along with their own interests” (p. 39).
Ethical issues in business have their place in several industries from transportation to banking to retail to healthcare and more. One particular industry where ethics and related issues are called into question is the field of business, which consists of several tactics that include manufacturing, marketing, advertising, production, distribution, sales and others that run the gamut of how to run a business. Often regarded as an industry full of shady dealings and underhanded tricks, the business world is massive and companies of every size face a multitude of issues that come from opinions formed from the most negative parts of business, like economic downfalls and scandals. However, businesses face a multitude of ethical issues that come up often and in order to prevent them from happening and deal with them, businesses have the responsibility of developing codes of conduct and ethics that organizational members must abide by.
One fundamental and persistent issues that comes up in businesses is harassment and discrimination of all kinds. Racial discrimination, verbal, physical and sexual harassment, and wage inequality are all apparent and costly issues that threaten the impartiality and diversity within organizations. In 2013, harassment and discrimination suits cost companies nearly $400 billion. Due to the changing demographics of the workplace, which include more women and older individuals, employers will be faced with situations that involve harassment which, when gone unchecked, can lead to a loss of productivity and credibility for the company, especially in terms of money. Employers must reinforce a zero-tolerance policy for discrimination on any grounds and establish a company perspective that respects all people no matter their religion, sex, race, genetic information, age, disability, etc. Another issue is occupational health and safety. Although strictly regulated by the United States Occupational Safety and Hazard Administration, more than 6,000 people die daily from occupational accidents or related diseases include falls, respiratory issues, ladders, electrical accidents, etc. Individuals’ psychosocial health can also be at risk, which is disturbed by factors like low autonomy, high demands, job insecurity and even harassment. Employers should enable a physically, psychologically and cognitively safe workplace by understanding the needs and wants of employees and treat them like the humans they are instead of just labor resources.
Companies have a social responsibility that extends past the objective of minimizing risk and maximizing profit. Improving upon the aforementioned ethical issues, in order of current importance in the business world, and preventing them from happening is on the onus of the company. This means establishing guidelines, codes of conduct and ethics and implicit expectations of how to behave and how to conduct business in a way that serves and not subjugates or deceives the society at large.
- Oster, K. V. (2018, March 5). List of Ethical Issues in Business. Retrieved March 26, 2018, from http://smallbusiness.chron.com/list-ethical-issues-business-55223.html
- Swaen, V. (2002, June). Corporate Social Responsibility: Do Managers and Consumers Have the Same Conception of Doing Good. In 10th International Conference of the Greening of Industry Network, Corporate Social Responsibility e Governance for Sustainability, June 23e26, Göteborg, Sweden.
- The 5 Biggest Ethical Issues Facing Businesses – Florida Tech Online. (2018, February 06). Retrieved March 26, 2018, from https://www.floridatechonline.com/blog/business/the-5-biggest-ethical-issues-facing-businesses/