Business, Ethics, And The Law

Posted on 24. Dec, 2007 by in Business ethics

Joseph Brochin asked:

The primary objective of a business is to make money. Why would an individual or group of people start a business if he did not want to make money? An argument that is generated by some is: “Should profits be the only function of a business?”

The desire for businesses to make money can sometimes lead to what is considered unethical business practices. Keep in mind the words unethical and unlawful are two separate terms with two separate meanings. One side of the argument states that ethics should not play a part in business as long as the business abides by the law of the land then they should not concern themselves with ethical behavior, but they should act in the best interest of the organization. The other side of the argument states that for an economy to function in a capitalist fashion that businesses must act in an ethical fashion regardless if their actions are legal under law.

Milton Friedman contends that the sole responsibility of business is to increase its profits. Robert Almeder maintains that if capitalism is to survive, it must act in a socially responsible ways that go beyond profit making. The views of these two individuals go to the heart of the argument. This author believes that after reading their material that the views of both are exaggerated. I do believe that a business’s responsibilities do go beyond what is legal. A business has a responsibility not only to the owners or stockholders, but also to the consumer who trust the business is acting not only in a legal manner but a safe and ethical manner as well. If a business goes out of its way to act in an unethical fashion then the business has broken their trust with the consumer. Once a business loses the trust of their consumers then profits will plummet. Seeing that profits are the primary function of a business then it is in the businesses best interest to maintain a trusting relationship with the consumers and continue to act in safe and ethical manner.

Keeping in mind that it is not the purpose of a business to propose or to dictate legislature nor ethical behavior to the individual, a business should not be held accountable for what a small population of consumers consider unethical. If the practice of the business is out in the open and hazards of their products are readily published and do not present the possibility of death involuntarily to the consumer then legislature should not dictate ethical behavior to business nor individuals for that matter.

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