Business Ethics and Social Responsibility

Sections of This Topic Include

About Ethics, Principles and Moral Values
What is Business Ethics?
Managing Ethics in the Workplace
- - - Managing Ethics Programs in the Workplace
- - - Developing Codes of Ethics
- - - Developing Codes of Conduct
- - - Resolving Ethical Dilemmas and Making Ethical Decisions
- - - Ethics Training
Assessing Culture and Cultivating Ethical Culture
Some Contemporary (Arguably) Ethical Issues
General Resources for Managing Ethics in the Workplace

Social Responsibility
Boards and Corporate Social Responsibility
General Resources for Social Responsibility

Also see
Related Library Topics

Also See the Library's Blog Related to Ethics and Social Responsibility

In addition to the articles on this current page, also see the following blog that has posts related to Ethics and Social Responsibility. Scan down the blog's page to see various posts. Also see the section "Recent Blog Posts" in the sidebar of the blog or click on "next" near the bottom of a post in the blog. The blog also links to numerous free related resources.

Library's Business Ethics Blog



About Ethics, Principles and Moral Values

Simply put, ethics involves learning what is right or wrong, and then doing the right thing -- but "the right thing" is not nearly as straightforward as conveyed in a great deal of business ethics literature. Most ethical dilemmas in the workplace are not simply a matter of "Should Bob steal from Jack?" or "Should Jack lie to his boss?"

(Many ethicists assert there's always a right thing to do based on moral principle, and others believe the right thing to do depends on the situation -- ultimately it's up to the individual.) Many philosophers consider ethics to be the "science of conduct." Twin Cities consultants Doug Wallace and John Pekel (of the Twin Cities-based Fulcrum Group; 651-714-9033; e-mail at jonpekel@atti.com) explain that ethics includes the fundamental ground rules by which we live our lives. Philosophers have been discussing ethics for at least 2500 years, since the time of Socrates and Plato. Many ethicists consider emerging ethical beliefs to be "state of the art" legal matters, i.e., what becomes an ethical guideline today is often translated to a law, regulation or rule tomorrow. Values which guide how we ought to behave are considered moral values, e.g., values such as respect, honesty, fairness, responsibility, etc. Statements around how these values are applied are sometimes called moral or ethical principles. (Extracted from Complete (Practical) Guide to Managing Ethics in the Workplace.)

What is Ethics?
Ethics
Ethics

12 Ethical Principles for Business Executives
The Ground Rules of Ethics
Fairness
Value at Work ... and at Play
Trustworthiness and Integrity -- What It Takes and Why It's So Hard
Avoiding Unfair Conduct
Honesty in Communications
Honesty in Conduct
Ought Versus Ethics
Why Integrity Is Never Easy
Duty to Others and the Golden Rule
What are Values, Morals, and Ethics?

What is Business Ethics?

The concept has come to mean various things to various people, but generally it's coming to know what it right or wrong in the workplace and doing what's right -- this is in regard to effects of products/services and in relationships with stakeholders. Wallace and Pekel explain that attention to business ethics is critical during times of fundamental change -- times much like those faced now by businesses, both nonprofit or for-profit. In times of fundamental change, values that were previously taken for granted are now strongly questioned. Many of these values are no longer followed. Consequently, there is no clear moral compass to guide leaders through complex dilemmas about what is right or wrong. Attention to ethics in the workplace sensitizes leaders and staff to how they should act. Perhaps most important, attention to ethics in the workplaces helps ensure that when leaders and managers are struggling in times of crises and confusion, they retain a strong moral compass. However, attention to business ethics provides numerous other benefits, as well (these benefits are listed later in this document).

Note that many people react that business ethics, with its continuing attention to "doing the right thing," only asserts the obvious ("be good," "don't lie," etc.), and so these people don't take business ethics seriously. For many of us, these principles of the obvious can go right out the door during times of stress. Consequently, business ethics can be strong preventative medicine. Anyway, there are many other benefits of managing ethics in the workplace. These benefits are explained later in this document. (Extracted from Complete (Practical) Guide to Managing Ethics in the Workplace.)

Business Ethics (Wikipedia)
What is Business Ethics?
Values and Morals, Guidelines for Living
Ethics at a Cross Roads
Retaliation Soars When Managers Don't Do the Right Thing
Ethics is More Than Compliance
Taking the Ethical High Road Is Good for Business
Ethics and Intentions
3 Sources of Moral Obligation
The Best Ways to Discuss Ethics
Students Teach Business Ethics
It’s Profitable to be Ethical
Transparency is a key to performance
Choices Make all the Difference
Ethical Decision Making and the Entrepreneur

Managing Ethics in the Workplace

Managing Ethics Programs in the Workplace

Organizations can manage ethics in their workplaces by establishing an ethics management program. Brian Schrag, Executive Secretary of the Association for Practical and Professional Ethics, clarifies. "Typically, ethics programs convey corporate values, often using codes and policies to guide decisions and behavior, and can include extensive training and evaluating, depending on the organization. They provide guidance in ethical dilemmas." Rarely are two programs alike.

"All organizations have ethics programs, but most do not know that they do," wrote business ethics professor Stephen Brenner in the Journal of Business Ethics (1992, V11, pp. 391-399). "A corporate ethics program is made up of values, policies and activities which impact the propriety of organization behaviors."

Bob Dunn, President and CEO of San Francisco-based Business for Social Responsibility, adds: "Balancing competing values and reconciling them is a basic purpose of an ethics management program. Business people need more practical tools and information to understand their values and how to manage them." (Extracted from Complete (Practical) Guide to Managing Ethics in the Workplace.)

Ethics Management Programs: An Overview
Is It Time for a Unified Approach to Business Ethics?
10 Benefits of Managing Ethics in the Workplace
8 Guidelines for Managing Ethics in the Workplace
6 Key Roles and Responsibilities in Ethics Management
12 Ethical Principles for Business Executives
Responsibilities in the Employer-Employee Relationship
Why Should Business Executives Be Concerned With Ethics?
Organizational Character and Leadership Development
Ten Steps to Designing a Comprehensive Ethics Program

Developing Codes of Ethics

According to Wallace, "A credo generally describes the highest values to which the company aspires to operate. It contains the `thou shalts.' A code of ethics specifies the ethical rules of operation. It's the `thou shalt nots." In the latter 1980s, The Conference Board, a leading business membership organization, found that 76% of corporations surveyed had codes of ethics.

Some business ethicists disagree that codes have any value. Usually they explain that too much focus is put on the codes themselves, and that codes themselves are not influential in managing ethics in the workplace. Many ethicists note that it's the developing and continuing dialogue around the code's values that is most important. (Extracted from Complete (Practical) Guide to Managing Ethics in the Workplace.)

Creating a Code of Ethics for Your Organization
Can You Improve Your Code of Ethics?

Developing Codes of Conduct

If your organization is quite large, e.g., includes several large programs or departments, you may want to develop an overall corporate code of ethics and then a separate code to guide each of your programs or departments. Codes should not be developed out of the Human Resource or Legal departments alone, as is too often done. Codes are insufficient if intended only to ensure that policies are legal. All staff must see the ethics program being driven by top management.

Note that codes of ethics and codes of conduct may be the same in some organizations, depending on the organization's culture and operations and on the ultimate level of specificity in the code(s). (Extracted from Complete (Practical) Guide to Managing Ethics in the Workplace.)

Effective Methods of Employee Code of Conduct Training
Rethinking Codes of Conduct
Establishing a Code of Business Ethics
Codes of Conduct in Light of Sarbanes-Oxley
7 Rules for Avoiding Conflicts of Interest in a Family Business

Resolving Ethical Dilemmas and Making Ethical Decisions

Perhaps too often, business ethics is portrayed as a matter of resolving conflicts in which one option appears to be the clear choice. For example, case studies are often presented in which an employee is faced with whether or not to lie, steal, cheat, abuse another, break terms of a contract, etc. However, ethical dilemmas faced by managers are often more real-to-life and highly complex with no clear guidelines, whether in law or often in religion.

As noted earlier in this document, Doug Wallace, Twin Cities-based consultant, explains that one knows when they have a significant ethical conflict when there is presence of a) significant value conflicts among differing interests, b) real alternatives that are equality justifiable, and c) significant consequences on "stakeholders" in the situation. An ethical dilemma exists when one is faced with having to make a choice among these alternatives.

What's an Ethical Dilemma?
Some Contemporary (Arguably) Ethical Issues
General Resources Regarding Managing Ethics in the Workplace
Social Responsibility (social responsibility is but one aspect of overall business ethics)
General Resources Regarding Social Responsibility
Making Ethical Decisions: Conscience Prodders
Lessons in Ethics from Richard Branson
Components of an Ethical Decision: Commitment, Consciousness, and Competency
The Dirty Dozen: Twelve Common Rationalizations and Excuses to Avoid
12 Questions for Examining the Ethics of a Business Decision

Assessing and Cultivating Ethical Culture

Culture is comprised of the values, norms, folkways and behaviors of an organization. Ethics is about moral values, or values regarding right and wrong. Therefore, cultural assessments can be extremely valuable when assessing the moral values in an organization.

Assessing Corporate Culture - Part 1
Assessing Corporate Culture - Part 2
Guest Post: En Route to an Ethical Corporate Culture

En Route to an Ethical Corporate Culture
Establishing an Ethical Environment: Inspiration
Creating an Ethical Workplace Culture
Creating a Sustainable Ethical Culture
The Board's Role in Ensuring an Ethical Corporate Culture
Culture Saves Lives
Combating the Hero Worship Culture at Penn State: the NCAA Got It Exactly Right

Also see
Organizational Culture
Organizational Assessments

Ethics Training

The ethics program is essentially useless unless all staff members are trained about what it is, how it works and their roles in it. The nature of the system may invite suspicion if not handled openly and honestly. In addition, no matter how fair and up-to-date is a set of policies, the legal system will often interpret employee behavior (rather than written policies) as de facto policy. Therefore, all staff must be aware of and act in full accordance with policies and procedures (this is true, whether policies and procedures are for ethics programs or personnel management). This full accordance requires training about policies and procedures.

Establishing an Ethical Environment: Education and Training
Do the Right Thing -- Ethics Training Programs Help Employees Deal With Ethical Dilemmas
Establishing an Ethical Environment -- Education and Training
Ethics Training and Development in the Military
Does Your Ethics and Compliance Training Meet the Standard?
Teaching Right and Wrong
Ethics Training: New Needs, New Times

Some Contemporary (Arguably) Ethical Issues

Banana Logic
Toyota Ethics: Questions to get to Answers
OK, Mr. Blankfein, How are you going to put ethics first?
Ethics Lessons in a New Era
The Fragility of Transparency
The Bloom is off the Tylenol Rose
Why Leaders have Trouble Restoring Trust
The Power of the Lowly Expense Report
Why it's so Hard to get Safety Right
Ethics Practices that Could Have Prevented the Shirley Sherrod Debacle
Insignificance of Ethics in Leadership
Ethics of Whistleblowing
J&J Accused of Ignoring Red Flags
Business Case #1 -- Employee Reference
J&J Dig Deeper!
How not to change a safety culture
Is Saying No to $12 million ethical, or unethical?
The Cost of Values
Employee References
Charlie Sheen's Business Ethics
Are companies responsible for how countries use their products?
Is “Free” Really Free?
Is News Corp Past the Tipping Point?
Cost of a Culture of Fear? $500 million for starters



General Resources Regarding Managing Ethics in the Workplace

Extensive list of lists of Websites
General business ethics resources at the Center for Applied Ethics
Ethical Leadership Group's articles
General site for ethics on the Web
List of listservers and groups
Ethics & Compliance Officer Association
Business Ethics
Business Ethics
Resource Renewal Institute
Business Ethics Center
Legal Ethics - Focusing on the ethical issues associated with the use of technology by legal professionals
Business Ethics Information & Resources
Business Ethics References in 200 Years of Books
Ethics 2012 – The Forecast is Cloudy
Get to the Start of the Slippery Slope


Social Responsibility

Social responsibility and business ethics are often regarding as the same concepts. However, the social responsibility movement is but one aspect of the overall discipline of business ethics. The social responsibility movement arose particularly during the 1960s with increased public consciousness about the role of business in helping to cultivate and maintain highly ethical practices in society and particularly in the natural environment.

Business for Social Responsibility (click on "Intro to Corporate Social Responsibility")
Business of Social Responsibility
Global Green Standards
"Winning with Integrity" - Business Impact Task Force Report Launched
Profit Versus Social Responsibility
Debate Social Responsibility -- a newsletter
Corporate Social Responsibility: An Insider's View
Responding to "The Case Against Social Responsibility"
Mother Theresa- An Inspiration For Social Responsibility
Corporate Social Responsibility: How Can Learning Contribute?
Four CSR Trends to Watch in 2011
Investing in Corporate Social Responsibility to Enhance Customer Value
Strategy and Society: The Link Between Competitive Advantage and Corporate Social Responsibility

Boards and Corporate Social Responsibility

2012 Trends for Corporate Social Responsibility and Ethics and Compliance
The Business Case for Corporate Social Responsibility
The Corporate Responsibility to Respect Human Rights
Investing in Corporate Social Responsibility to Enhance Customer Value
Why CSR's Future Matters to Your Company
Organizing for Corporate Responsibility and Sustainability
The Responsible and Sustainable Board
Sustainability and climate change
Chief Sustainability Officer
Sustainability Matters: For Directors, it’s all in the Framework
Sustainability in the Boardroom
Corporate Social Responsibility – What Is Wrong with This Picture?
Deconstructing Sustainability
Board Leadership and Corporate Social Responsibility
Nasdaq Hacking a Wake-Up Call for Boards
6 Criteria for Selecting a CSR Consultant


General Resources Regarding Social Responsibility

There are many online resources in regard to social responsibility. The following will help to get your started.

Business for Social Responsibility
Educators for Social Responsibility
Behaviorists for Social Responsibility
Center for Computing and Social Responsibility
Business Ethics and Leadership Blog


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For the Category of Ethics:

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Also, scan the Recommended Books listed below. They have been selected for their relevance and highly practical nature.

Related Library Topics

Recommended Books

Business Ethics

Social Responsibility



Business Ethics

The following books are recommended because of their highly practical nature and often because they include a wide range of information about this Library topic. To get more information about each book, just click on the image of the book. Also, a "bubble" of information might be displayed. You can click on the title of the book in that bubble to get more information, too.



Social Responsibility

The following books are recommended because of their highly practical nature and often because they include a wide range of information about this Library topic. To get more information about each book, just click on the image of the book. Also, a "bubble" of information might be displayed. You can click on the title of the book in that bubble to get more information, too.

Also see

Social Enterprise -- Recommended Books




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