Business Ethics: A New Age

By Anna Plank
Trending Editor

(Photo courtesy of Poets&Quants)

Juul banning mango flavored pods. Johnson and Johnson manufacturing and selling highly addictive pain killers. Uber’s past CEO, Travis Kalanick, being replaced with Dara Khosrowshahi. These decisions are all ones that stem from ethics. Ethics are the philosophy behind what is right and wrong, and what is good and evil. However, ethics are often more complicated and complex than a simple black and white solution, especially in the world of business. For example, sometimes doing the right thing can go against customer’s values. This, in turn, could cause a company to lose business. On the flipside, doing the right thing in times of uncertainty can bolster the reputation and, in turn, the business of a company.

Historically, there are many companies that have demonstrated strong cases of business ethics in various avenues of their business. In terms of environmental problems, Starbucks has had a consistent commitment to lessening their global footprint. Not only do they use recycled paper for their cups, but they also offer discounts on beverages if customers bring reusable cups to use. Additionally, Starbucks is committed to offering its baristas full health insurance benefits and stock awards, which is an something most competing franchises replicate.

Another company that has demonstrated their ethics through strong practices is Goldman Sachs. In 2012, the CEO of the time (Lloyd Blankfein) openly appeared in a human rights campaign ad that advocated for marriage equality. Following the advertisement, a very high-profile client decided to discontinue doing business with the company. Although Goldman Sachs lost money in this situation, the company did not hesitate to stand up for what it believes in, which is ethically admirable. Additionally, the company offers to completely fund gender reassignment surgery for any of their employees.

Additionally, Patagonia is a member of the One Percent for the Planet Pledge, which states that the company will donate one percent of its sales profit to environmental organizations. Not only does Patagonia actively take ownership of its effect on the environment, but the company has publicly cautioned customers from buying their products if they don’t need them.

While all the companies mentioned have impressive demonstrations of ethics in some areas, there is one company that is very strong in its ethical views on many fronts: Google. Not only does Google sponsor its own Green Program, but it also uses efficient buildings and utilizes public transportation to decrease its digital footprint. In addition, Google strongly advocates free speech and is an open supporter of gay rights. Moreover, Google has phenomenal employee benefits that include free health care, free legal advice, onsite cafeteria and a free onsite nursery.

As society continues to develop, so does its understanding of ethical behavior, of what is right and wrong. It is important for companies to note these changes and create multifaceted approaches in order to confront the ethical dilemmas that exist within the business world today.


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