Webster dictionary defines Ethics as: The rules or standards governing the conduct of a
person or the members of a profession. There are many governing bodies exerting
control and influence over the business community. These institutions vary from
government based (SEC) to professional self-governing institutions (Professional
Engineers of Canada). There are also international governing bodies that can impose
rules and standards of conduct. However, the level of influence over businesses beyond
national boarders greatly varies.
My argument is broken down to 2 parts. First, ethical conduct varies from one
environment to another. Second, lack of a strong international governing body with
international reach makes ethical decisions secondary to profitable financial choices.
The general nature of morals and specific moral choices are at the core of ethical
decisions. This is where things get complicated. Depending on the individual or even
cultural perceptions a choice may be viewed as ethical by some and unethical by others.
One man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter.
I think financial managers view choices based on their impact on the business. It is
simply a balance of gains and losses. Ford's decision to sell Pintos, knowing a rear
collision can cause an explosion was a financial choice that meant settling claims was
cheaper than recall or discontinuation of production. Companies will also correct their
unethical conduct only if it is damaging their reputation and/or bottom line. An example
of this was Nike's child labour accusations in Asia.
Other way to control ethical conduct is through government regulation. However, many
would argue if this approach is the answer to ethical conduct. Most will agree that murder
is unethical, yet there is Capital punishment. In conclusion, I see corporate ethics as
situational and not global. It is the consequences of their decisions that determine their