Business Ethics Essay Example

Business Ethics


Conduct of business ought to pass the test of morality and ethics in all aspects. It involves the behaviour of individuals in the organization and the culture espoused in the entire organization. There are normative and descriptive aspects of business ethics. The focus is on the businesses ability to maximize profits while at the same time considering other factors involving people and the environment. This is what gave rise to corporate social responsibility charters in different companies to enable them have directing principles on what they can and cannot do in pursuit of profits, because crossing such lines would man hurting people through unethical actions. (Cohen 2010).

Governments have laws governing actions of companies but ethics go beyond government regulations. According to Rawls (2001) there are certain principles that govern ethics, in the sense that ethics are based on them. These include justice the rights and privileges of the individuals and the society that must not be abused are based on the principle of justice, this is the foundation on which legislation is developed and also the basis on which social and economic action must be based (Luetge 2013).

Discussion of the efficacy or value of codes of professional conduct

Australian Human Resource Institute has a code of ethics and professional conduct. The code includes issues on members enhancing the good name of the Human Resource management profession and also emphasizes the importance of human resources in organizations. Members of the institute are also expected to provide leadership to the best of their abilities through showing of ethical behaviour in the workplace and selflessness. The code also requires members to be honest in their dealings with their employers, employees and clients. Members are also required to uphold the law in all their actions in the discharge of their duties. Trustworthiness and integrity informs members not to let selfish interest to hinder their fairness in execution of their professional duties. Confidentiality is also expected of members while handling matters relating to the individuals they work with bearing in mind that it is their duty to manage people. They are also required to promote justice fairness and reasonableness. Members are also expected to maintain high levels of competence in execution of their professional duties.

The efficacy of these provisions of the AHRI professional code of conduct examined through utilitarianism. Utilitarianism states that it is relevant how all the people involved are affected thus even if ethics are in a way meant to protect the professional. How their actions affect everyone else is just as important. AHRI’ code of ethics shows a high level of efficacy in this regard due to its insistence on matters of justice, farness, integrity and confidentiality whose gist is in the treatment of others by members of AHRI.

Observed through the Kantian perspective which emphasized the moral life is based on duty in which morality is based on pure reason (Smith & Dubbink 2011). The emphasis of the code by AHRI is based on how individual actions affect other individuals. It seems to have less emphasis on the question of duty, especially duty based on reason. Its emphasis on happiness not being the highest objective, in the Kantian perspective is related to AIHR’s code of conduct in the same way utilitarianism is related to the code. Justice is one of the key pillars of the AIHR code which is in direct agreement with Rawlsian principles of justice. This code does promote ethical rights particularly the right to due process in dealing with the employees of the organisation where they manage human resources.

Standards in Human Resource Management emphasize professional responsibility, professional development, ethical leadership, fairness and justice, protection of the interest of stakeholders above the practitioners own. The code requires them to be truthful in their communication and disbursement of information. The efficacy of this conduct when gauged against utilitarianism may not completely meet the objectives since the question of how all involved would be affected by the process especially regarding confidentiality. Human resource practitioners are not required to maintain confidentiality. Some information about individuals, though true may not necessarily have to be divulged since it would be damaging to their person. Duty in the Kantian sense, is not taken to consideration as it does not necessarily have to come from within in the case of SHRM code of conduct. Rawlsian justice may be achieved through this code as it has fairness and justice as one of its core principles. Concerning the ensuring of ethical rights of all people, SHRM code lays emphasis on ethical leadership and professional responsibility. This, by inference, requires human resource practitioners to respect the ethical rights of all individual particularly the people they have the responsibility of managing.

SA Board for People Practices the code is based on responsibility, which is described as the responsibility for the transformation of the employees they manage. The other pillar is integrity in which members are expected to show honesty, objectivity and fairness, consistency and also loyalty to the profession of human resource management. Competence is also expected of members of SABPP. This code’s efficacy with regard to utilitarianism is high and since it seek to ensure all stakeholders are affected only positively particularly with regard to the improvement of the standards of living of the employees of organisations they work in. The issue of responsibility shows a high efficacy of the code regarding the Kantian theory responsibility is an internal acceptance of duty as described by Kant (Bowie 1999). Responsibility for the transformation of the lives of employees that members of SABPP manage is and explicit requirement for the respect of ethical rights of employees of the organisations. Integrity requires that information regarding individual employees to be kept in confidence which is an ethical right. Fairness also requires that each worker receives a fair wage for work done which is an ethical right.

Recommendation to AHRI.

AHRI’s code is while it lays emphasis on the protection of the individual stakeholder fails to emphasize the internalization and ownership of the ethics. Ethics in this case may appear as being legalistic and therefore their enforcement retroactive. It would be better for emphasis was to be laid on internalizing these rules so that the individual practitioner feels responsible to uphold them in line with the Kantian perspective where duty is inborn.


Business activities affect people and it is important to ensure that the situation in their conduct is win win. There should be respect for intrinsic human dignity in the conduct of business. Industries have codes of conduct and the examination of the three above shows that emphasis have been lain on human dignity and being preemptive. Utilitarianism, Kantian perspective and Rawlsnism understanding of justice when combined in a code of conduct for the basis for an effective code.


Bowie, N. E. 1999. Business ethics: a kantian perspective. Maiden, Mass.: Blackwell


Cohen, M.A 2010, The narrow application of rawls in business ethics: a political conception

of both stakeholder theory and the morality of markets. Journal of Business Ethics 97:563–579.

.ISBN 978-9400714953Luetge, C, 2013, Handbook of the philosophical foundations of business ethics. Heidelberg/New York:

Rawls, J, 2001, Justice as fairness: a restatement, e. kelly (ed.) (Harvard University Press, Cambridge).

Smith J & Dubbink, W 2011, Understanding the role of moral principles in business ethics: a kantian perspective, Business Ethics Quarterly 21:2 Pp 205 – 231