Definitions of business ethics differ slightly from country to country and region to region. But in essence it is considered to be the general standards of good, moral behavior and conduct connected to a business and its operations. Ethics alone can be considered the manner in which we conduct ourselves and how we interact with others. In terms of business this also involves following certain laws, the way in which management engages with employees, employee-to-employee relations, and a business's relationship with its customers and society as a whole. Some issues that often come up when considering business ethics are issues concerning sexual harassment or discrimination as well as child labor laws and human rights violations.
In Western countries, as well as other parts of the world, religion-whether stated explicitly or not- heavily influences people's concepts of 'ethical' and 'unethical' behavior. Though business ethics is often described as more than feelings and consciousness (professors will usually define it as just a set of guidelines formulated by philosophers over time), the moral and natural inclinations attached to it are hard to ignore . For instance, even if you've never heard of business ethics or know little about business and legal practices you still have a good sense of what would be considered 'ethical' or 'unethical' in many business-related matters such as child labor and product safety.
Additionally, you can also think of business ethics as a three-tiered-system; ethical behavior that is upon the individual, ethical principles that need to be applied on an organizational-business level and ethical practices that take place between a business and society.
Getting ready to write
In preparing for your business ethics paper the first step you need to take is to identify a suitable topic to explore. Depending on the type of paper you are constructing, whether theoretical or experimental, you need to also think about the theories that you can apply to your paper to properly analyze ethical issues in an academic context. This component will be further discussed later. So first up-topic selection.
Step 1: Identify a topic
Ethical topics are all around us. Particularly in the age of computers many issues have came up with regards to Internet privacy and a company's role in regulating employees' online activities as well as email monitoring. Likewise, you can also branch out to other issues of privacy outside of the Internet such as telephone conversations, drug testing, background checks or the use of medical and personal records. The amount of cases that go to court for these issues, for instance, are enough to illustrate the importance of these matters.
Another major segment of business ethics deals with manufacturing contracts a businesses key product suppliers. A 'hot topic' related to this issue is inhumane work environments and child labor laws. Some big name companies are often caught in legal battles because they subcontracted a company to manufacture cheap clothing, for example, and this company is then caught employing children or similarly maintaining very poor or inhumane working conditions. All of these subject matters and their connected sub-points would fall under business ethics.
Also to narrow your topic hunt down more finely you can simply 'get in tune' to popular subjects in this category by reading publications related to business ethics or performing specific news searches online to reveal recent headlines containing ethical dilemmas or cases brought to court.
After identifying a specific topic to focus on you want to begin developing your argument by coupling it with an ethical theory or concept. This is an important component of the term paper writing
process. Rather than simply finding a good topic
or case to discuss you also have to be able to relate that topic back to the course material you've studied and understand where it fits in with regards to business ethics and its applicable concepts.
Step 2: Connect your topic to a theory or ethical concept
Assuming that your term paper is for an academic course you're probably already familiar with the philosophical understandings of business ethics. In the literature you can find three major approaches to looking at business ethics.
Popular approaches to ethical issues:
Profit Focused Business
This approach has two explanations. The first claims that if a business produces and maintains good ethical standards, such as adhering to employee's privacy concerns and manufacturing products in a humane way, than this will result in an increase in profit and create an overall successful business. The other explanation is the reverse and claims that a good profitable business means good ethical standards. Meaning, that only businesses with good practices will be successful if customers demand things such as humane manufacturing, product safety, employee privacy and other ethical standards.
This approach dictates that a company's ethical responsibilities are only limited to what the law requires. In that, other issues outside of legal codes (for that state or country) are not required to be upheld by company ethical standards. This approach obviously has a lot of connected issues as man-made laws are in no way comprehensive of all things ethical; they undoubtedly leave many 'gray-areas' in terms of what is to be considered ethical and permissible and what is to be considered 'unethical' and harmful.
This last approach is the most common understanding of ethics by researchers in the field. It claims that a business should think about its ethical practices in terms of general moral responsibility and not limit it to numbers 1 and 2. This is because most laws do not offer a sufficient amount of morality in terms of ethical codes of behavior and similarly a profit motive alone is not enough to sustain ethical standards either. In a sense, its thinking of the business as a responsible individual with a conscience and moral expectations to be fulfilled.
In addition to these three approaches, some other key elements to 'thinking ethically' are as follows.
Key factors in ethical discussions
Business practices that promote the greatest good
Looking at ethical standards as something that promotes the best possible result; good for all those involved even if it doesn't appear that way initially.
The implementation of human rights
Considering the human rights of employees, customers, and other people connected to the business's operation.
Upholding duties to others
What is binding upon the organization in terms of legal and moral or religious responsibility to others.
Being fair, just and performing virtuous actions
Thinking of the best means to go about treating all parties fairly and justly. Using a rational rather than emotional approach, with fairness not being based on feelings alone. It also involves conduct and interactions that are considered virtuous and god-fearing.
Overall, ethics can be defined in several ways depending on the individual. If interested in applying specific theories or philosophies alone you can restrict yourself to coursework and adhering to your instructor's guidelines and expectations in preparing your paper. But if writing for personal or professional reasons you should consider consulting other interpretations and approaches as well.
In terms of research paper construction, after you've reviewed possible theories and concepts to include in your paper, you can begin to work on developing a clear and concise thesis statement. Your thesis statement
is one of the most crucial elements of your paper. Take time in constructing it and aim to carefully include the key ethical issues you intend to discuss, any connected aspects or points, as well as the main objective or argument you intend to explore in your paper.