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7 . Principles of Business Ethics

Explain the Social Sins listed by Mahatma Gandhi.
Mahatma Gandhi, Father of India, promoted non-violence, justice and harmony between
people of all faiths. He stressed that people follow ethical principles and listed following seven
Social Sins:
(i) Politics without Principles
(ii) Wealth without Work
(iii) Commerce without Morality
(iv) Knowledge without Character
(v) Pleasure without Conscience
(vi) Science without Humanity
(vii) Worship without Sacrifice.
The first deals with the political field. The Kings in Indian tradition were only the guardian
executors and servants of ‘Dharma’. For Gandhi, Rama was the symbol of a king dedicated to
principles. The second dictum deals with the sphere of Economics. Tolstoy and Ruskin
inspired Gandhi on the idea of bread-labour. Gandhiji developed the third maxim into the idea
of trusteeship. A businessman has to act only as a trustee of the society for whatever he has
gained from the society. Everything, finally, belongs to the society. The fourth dictum deals
with knowledge. Education stands for the all round development of the individual and his
character. Gandhi’s system of basic education was the system for development of one’s
character. In this maxim, Gandhi emphasized on conscience. He said that pleasure without
conscience is a sin. In sixth maxim, Gandhi held that science without the thought of the
welfare of humanity is a sin. Science and humanity together pave the way for welfare of all. In
religion, we worship, but if we are not ready to sacrifice for social service, worship has no
value, it is a sin to worship without sacrifice
What is the difference between ‘Morals’ and ‘Ethics”?
Moral vs. Ethics: Following are the points of difference between Ethics and Moral :
(i) The word Éthics’ is derived from Ancient Greek éthikos’ meaning çharacter’. The word
‘moral” is derived from Latin ‘mos’ meaning çustom’.
(ii) Character is the essence of values and habits of a person or group. It severs the
analysis and employment of concepts such as right and wrong, good and evil and acting
with responsibility. Moral is defined as relating to principles of right and wrong.
(iii) Character is a personal attitude, while custom is defined by a group over a period of
time. For example People have character, Societies have custom.
(iv) Morals are accepted from an authority (such as cultural, religious etc.) while ethics are
accepted because they follow from personally accepted principles. An ethical view might
be based on an idea of personal property that should not be taken without social
consent. Moral norms can usually be expressed as general rules and statements such
as ‘always tell the truth’.
(v) Morals work on smaller scale than ethics, more reliably, but by addressing human needs
for belonging and emulation, while ethics has a much wider scope.
Explain the meaning of the terms ‘ethics’ and ‘business ethics’ and also state the requirements
of ‘business ethics’.
Ethics: The term ‘Ethics’ has a variety of meanings. One of the meanings is ‘Ethics’ are the
principles of conduct governing an individual or a group. Another definition describes ethics as
relating to what is good or bad and having to do with moral duty and obligation.
Business Ethics: In a broad sense, ethics in business refers to the application of day-to-day
moral and ethical norms to business. Business ethics are the principles and standards that
determine acceptable conduct in business organisation.
Requirements: Being ethical in business requires acting with an awareness of –
(a) The need for complying with rules (e.g) (i) laws of the land, (ii) customs and expectation
of the community (iii) principles of morality (iv) policies of the organization and (v)
general concerns such as the needs of others and fairness.
(b) How the products, services and actions of a business enterprise, can affect its
stakeholders (i.e. employees, customers, suppliers, shareholders and community society
as a whole) either positively or negatively
Explain the fundamental principles relating to ethics.
The fundamental principles relating to ethics may be summarized as under:
1. The Principle of Integrity: It calls upon all accounting and finance professionals to
adhere to honesty and straightforwardness while discharging their respective
professional duties.
2. The Principle of Objectivity: This principle requires accounting and finance
professionals to stick to their professional and financial judgment.
3. The Principle of Confidentiality: This principle requires practitioners of accounting and
financial management to refrain from disclosing confidential information related to their
4. The Principle of Professional Competence and due care: Finance and accounting
professionals need to update their professional skills from time to time in order to provide
competent professional services to their clients.
5. The Principle of Professional Behaviour: This principle requires accounting and
finance professionals to comply with relevant laws and regulations and avoid such
actions which may result in discrediting the profession.
To maintain social contract between society and business, the trusteeship relations are
essential”. Describe the role of business ethics in this reference.
Businesses as trustees: Mahatma Gandhi, the father of the nation, had aptly said that
trusteeship provides a means for transforming the present capitalist order of society into an
egalitarian one. A business man has to act only as a trustee of the society for whatever he has
gained from the society. Everything finally belongs to the society. Society bestows upon
business the authority to own and use land and natural resources. In return the society has
the right to expect that productive organizations will enhance the general interests of
consumers, employees and community.
Business ethics is required to implement the laws of land, customs, expectations of
community, principles of morality, etc. The products and services of an organization affect its
employees, the community and society as a whole. Business ethics also subserve the
management discipline. Business houses may also use their financial and public influence to
address social problems like poverty, crime, equal rights, environmental problems, public
health and education. Society at large has also come to realize that since businessmen are
making profits by using the country’s resources, they owe it to the country to work for its
development. Sound workplace ethics ensure that a company’s employees are highly
motivated and identify themselves with their employer. Following ethical business practices
safeguard a company from getting entangled with law enforcement agencies. A reputation for
highly ethical behaviour also ensures increased sales and customer loyalty. Certain ecofriendly practices also reduce operation costs. Thus, society derives benefits as well as
business prospers when businesses are ethically driven.
Examine the following hypothetical situation and give a brief analytical note on it.
Mr. XYZ is a CEO of a pharmaceutical company. His R&D department, while experimenting
with a chemical molecule, sees the possibility that the molecule may be developed into a drug
for a rare, painful, life-threatening genetic disease that afflicts only one child in ten million. But
to develop the drug, his company may have to invest huge sums of the shareholders’ money,
despite the drug not having wide salability. Is Mr. XYZ confronted by an ethical dilemma? How
should he resolve the issue?
Mr. XYZ is in a situation where he has to choose between carrying on the development of a
drug for a painful and life threatening disease which afflicts one in ten million and the action of
spending huge sum of shareholders’ money for such development. As we can see, both are
positive and ethically right choices. As a socially responsible person he has to think in terms of
eliminating a serious illness but at the same time he must be careful in dealing with
shareholders’ money. This is a classic case of an ethical dilemma. Such an ethical dilemma
must be resolved by addressing the following points:
1. Defining the problem clearly.
2. How to define the problem if you stood on the other side of the fence?
3. How did the situation arise?
4. To whom are you loyal as a person and as a member of the organization?
5. What is your intention in making this decision?
6. How does this intention compare with the probable results?
7. Whom could your decision or action injure?
8. Can you discuss the problem with the affected parties before you make your decision?
9. Are you confident that your position will be as valid over a long period?
10. Could you disclose without any doubt your decision or action to your boss, your CEO, the
Board of Directors, your family, society as a whole?
11. What is the symbolic potential of your action if understood? Misunderstood?
12. Under what conditions would you allow exceptions to your stand?
To pay proper attention to business ethics is certainly beneficial in the interest of business.
Describe four such benefits which may be obtained by paying attention to business ethics.
Benefits which may be obtained by paying attention to business ethics: Ethics is the
concern for good behaviour – doing the right thing. In business, self interest prevails and there
is always inconsistency between ethics and business. But it is a well settled principle that
ethical behaviour creates a positive reputation that expands the opportunities for profit. The
awareness regarding products and services of an organization, and the actions of its
employees can affect its stakeholders and society as a whole. Therefore to pay proper
attention to business ethics may be beneficial in the interest of business. These benefits may
be enumerated as follows:
(1) In the recent past ruthless exploitation of children and workers, trust control over the
market, termination of employees based on personalities and other factors had affected
society and a demand arose to place a high value on ethics, fairness and equal rights
resulting in framing of anti-trust laws, establishment of governmental agencies and
recognition of labour unions.
(2) Easier change management: Attention to business ethics is also critical during times of
fundamental change. The apparent dilemma may be whether to be non profit or for profit.
In such situations, often there is no clear moral compass to guide leaders about what is
right or wrong. Continuing attention to ethics in the workplace sensitises leaders and staff
for maintaining consistency in their actions.
(3) Strong team work and greater productivity: Ongoing attention and dialogues regarding
ethical values in the workplace builds openness, integrity and a sense of community
which leads to, among the employees, a strong alignment between their values and
those of the organisation resulting in strong motivation and better performance.
(4) Enhanced employee growth: Attention to ethics in the workplace helps employees face
the reality – both good and bad in the organisation and gain the confidence of dealing
with complex work situations.
(5) Ethical programmes help guarantee that personnel policies are legal: A major objective of
personnel policies is to ensure ethical treatment of employees. In matters of hiring,
evaluating, disciplining, firing etc. An employer can be sued for breach of contract for
failure to comply with any promise. The gap between corporate culture and actual
practice has significant legal and ethical implications. Attention to ethics ensures highly
ethical policies and procedures in the work place. Ethics management programmes are
useful in managing diversity. Such programmes require the recognition and application of
diverse values and perspectives which are the basis of a sound ethics management
programme. Most organisations feel that cost of mechanisms to ensure ethical
programme may be more helpful in minimizing the costs of litigations.
(6) Ethical programmes help to detect ethical issues and violations early, so that criminal
acts “of omission” may be avoided.
(7) Ethical values help to manage values associated with quality management, strategic
planning and diversity management.

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