Are ethics global or situational

Essay by julie_1502University, Bachelor's May 2004

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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

course of...