The need for ethics in business and media
Image found here
If you ask several people what ethics are, it’s very likely you will get some pretty different answers. Some people believe ethics are what society, the law or a religion tells you is right and wrong while others feel ethics are more of a personal feeling of what is right and wrong. I think the answer is somewhere in the middle. In my opinion, ethics are a set of moral principles that guides a group or individual on what is right and wrong, usually based on religious or societal beliefs. Morals are more of an internal, personal set of beliefs on right and wrong, while a code of ethics can depend on the beliefs of a particular group, culture or business.
Ethics are important in business for both the individual employee and the organization. If you have any kind of personal moral compass, you will want to act ethically in your work so you can sleep at night, whether someone is holding you to a certain ethical standard or not. If acting unethically doesn’t seem to affect your sleep, you may still want to behave ethically at work because it could hurt your reputation and your career forever if you don’t. Especially if you are in journalism, public relations or advertising. These jobs involve communicating with the public and trust is very important. People want to be able to trust that you are giving them the absolute truth without manipulation and that you have their best interest in mind. Once you’ve lost people’s trust, even just for a second, it’s very difficult to get it back. See Brian Williams.
So being ethical is good for your personal career path. But it also goes without saying that ethical businesses like to hire ethical people. As an employee, you are a reflection of the company and if you don’t have the same ethical standards, you could damage or even ruin their reputation too (See Brian Williams). Your company needs to trust you, as an employee that you will always do the right thing (based on their ethical standards), whether someone is watching you or not.
For a company as a whole, it is very important for the organization and its employees to follow a code of ethics and to make it clear that unethical behavior will not be accepted. Just as it’s vital for an individual’s success to be trusted by the public, it’s also very important for a business. As Business in Focus Magazine puts it, “the reputation of a business is essential to its survival. The trust and confidence of the consumer can have a direct and profound effect on a company’s bottom line.”
There are many examples of businesses that have made some bad choices that resulted in a hurt reputation. Some of these bad choices were actions taken by the company that were completely wrong or unethical in the public’s eyes. Some were actually the attempt at covering up a situation. And other times it was how a company poorly handled a situation out of their control. (An example of this kind of situation would be the fake apple juice case we discussed in class). Sometimes a company’s reputation is only partially damaged and over time with some work, it can gain the consumer’s trust again. However, sometimes the situation (and usually the cover up or reaction) is so bad that the business has lost all credibility and its reputation is forever ruined.
So, we know that a business’s success can depend on their reputation and whether they are seen as being good or bad to consumers and shareholders. It is obviously in their best interest to be ethical and do the “right thing”. That leads to the question of whether companies are only good because it’s good for business or if companies are good because it’s good for business and because it’s right. I mentioned earlier that as an individual, if you have any kind of moral compass, you probably want to do the right thing even when no one’s watching because you’d know what you did. That’s where integrity comes in. I think it’s important for businesses to also be ethical even when no one’s watching. Or that is, even when they aren’t afraid of being caught. That’s because a truly ethical company has the capability thus the responsibility to make great social change. As author Mark Horoszowski says on his blog, “Nobody is better positioned to create long-term, sustainable change than businesses. According to Michael E. Porter and Mark R. Kramer at the Harvard Business Review, ‘When a well-run business applies its vast resources, expertise, and management talent to problems that it understands and in which it has a stake, it can have a greater impact on social good than any other institution or philanthropic organization.“
Bracey, Leon. “The Importance of Business Reputation.” Business in Focus. Business in Focus, n.d. Web. 16 Feb. 2015. <http://www.businessinfocusmagazine.com/2012/10/the-importance-of-business-reputation/>.
“Ethical Business Practices: A Cadbury Schweppes Case Study.” Business Case Studies. 2002. Web. 16 Feb. 2015. <http://businesscasestudies.co.uk/cadbury-schweppes/ethical-business-practices/the-importance-of-ethics-in-business.html#axzz3Rvi7u8Gv>.
Horoszowski, Mark. “5 Reasons Your Business Should Be Socially Responsible.” MovingWorlds Blog. Moving Worlds, 3 Dec. 2011. Web. 16 Feb. 2015. <http://blog.movingworlds.org/5-reasons-your-business-should-be-socially-responsible/>.
“Professional Integrity and Ethics.” The Human Resources Institute of New Zealand. HRINZ. Web. 16 Feb. 2015. <http://www.hrinz.org.nz/Site/Resources/Knowledge_Base/I-P/professional_integrity_and_ethics.aspx>.