Ethics is increasingly becoming a common part of businesses and organizations. The determinant of a good business involves a lot of factors including how ethical the business is in conducting its activities. Being ethically competent means that the company perceives ethical issues in a certain situation and after that, reason things in a moral way and develop certain ways of solving the problem effectively (Lloyd, 2009). Large organizations, often encounter certain ethical issues that come up in their organizations, and they have to come up with ways to identify and deal with the problems that they encounter in an effective way (Mohamad, 2010). In addition, the popularity of ethics in organizations, there are certain theories that were in development to help organizations in identifying and dealing with ethical issues. This paper will offer an academic discourse into certain ethical theories and evaluate them including utilitarianism, Kantian deontology, justice as elaborated by Rawls and Nozick, ethical relativism and rights and evaluate their application in realistic situations with reference to the article The New World in order to identify the ethical issues and draw conclusions about the practice and theory of ethics in business.
Business ethics are behavior that businesses and organizations implement and adhere to while dealing with daily operations (Crystal, 2011). Ethics applies both internally and externally in businesses. This is to say that they apply to the way businesses deal with their customers and how businesses deal with employees and others within them. Business ethics also apply to how the business deals with other businesses. In addition, they govern the moral conduct of individuals in a business in turn influencing the whole organization. Business ethics is a very important part of corporate social responsibility in terms of reassuring company stake holders, improving the society’s attitude towards the organization and showcasing transparency of the business (Lloyd, 2009). The history of business ethics can be traced back to the 1970s when early business norms evolved to become business ethics.
Utilitarianism is an ethical theory that is normative and bases its conclusions on the consequences of a certain action. This means that the wrongness or rightness of an act in judgement usually by the penalty of a certain action. There are certain features that the theory of utilitarianism has (Business Ethics: Utilitarianism, 2005). These features include the principle of attaining the greatest happiness, egoism, and the unrealistic identification of one’s interest with other people’s interests. The things that are in consideration right in this theory are those that bring about happiness and pleasure. This means that the action is not in consideration in terms of how useful it is but by the happiness that it brings to the person who has performed the action. In the business setting, this would mean that the people in an organization only engage in ethical activities, if it brings them happiness or if happiness will emanate from the ethical issues (Ebenstein, 1991). This happiness could be that the organization gets profits from the ethical activities.
However, if the organization gets involved in an activity that is productive and correct, but the activity does not lead to a pleasurable result, then the activity is in view as a wrong move. According to the theory, if an action that a person performs is heroic but fails to result in happiness, then the action is morally wrong. When referring to egoism, the person in pursuit of happiness if doing it for selfish gain in that the happiness they receive will only be right if it benefits them personally (Ebenstein, 1991). In an organization, this would mean that an ethical action that benefits the organization will be in consideration for reward and thought to be right.
The term deontology refers or comes from the word duty in that people are in expectation or have a duty to behave in a manner, no matter what results from their actions. In this case, there is a set of rules, and principles that people should follow, and if they do this, they will be acting in an ethical way (Bowie, 1999). On the other hand, if the way of behavior does not go in ways that show adherence to the rules, then they will have performance action that is not ethical or one that is morally wrong. In the context of an organization, this means that an organization that follows the rules that were in place to govern the activities that they undertake will be behaving in a way that is ethical (Bowie, 1999). However, if the organization does not follow these rules, then accomplishment will be of something that is unethical. The organization expectation is to act according to these rules no matter what will result from their actions. This means that the ethical nature of an action judgement is not from the result, but the undertaking of an action.
According to the deontological theory, there are some actions that can be morally wrong but may lead to happiness. It is, therefore, important that management of actions is by rules such that an action is in account of being ethical or not (Bowie, 2002). This way, a person will not do something wrong and justify it because it led to a positive outcome. The action is in view alone, and its morality base is not on the result. The organization is grateful to act in ways that others will consider as ethical. This is what makes what they do ethical. In this way, consequences and emotions should not influence the action that a person takes.
In the justice theory, the moral rules that one is in expectation to uphold were in existence for a long time, and they stem from history. According to Rawls, history helps in the formation of rules that their intention is to uphold equality (Baker, 2008). The guidelines that an individual is a requirement to adhere to, so that they are in view as being ethical, are part of a cultural system that the person or organization is a requirement to maintain. These rules have their roots on evolution in that people have specified and altered them, as they evolve until they develop rules that are acceptable to all participants. According to the justice theory, the proof that these rules exist can be seen in the way people lived in harmony, in the past, the rules that are in force their selection was through elimination. They survived at the expense of other rules elimination. In addition, the rules that govern these people are in a way that is acceptable by those they govern.
In the business context, this means that an action consideration to be ethical will be so because it has adhered to the rules of business and interaction in existence, and mostly for a longer time. This means that the rules development by people for a long time and are in view as the correct guidelines to business. In addition, people who are the participant in the business in one way or another have to accept the rules as they are. An activity that is unethical will be violating the rules making those who are to be governed feel oppressed or feel as unfairly treated (Konow, 2003). A single person is no permission to make the rules but rather the community meaning that the organization is answerable to the community in ethical issues (Nozick, 1974).
Theory of ethical relativism
According to the theory of ethical relativism, the moral values that a person holds are dependent on the norms and the rules that a person’s culture has (LaFollette, 1991). In this case, an activity that a person performs may be ethical to them and unethical to people of a different culture. In an organizational and business setting, this implies that an organization may be involved in activities that will be ethical to them but may be seen as unethical by other organizations in a different culture or by other people who are in a diverse culture. It is usually not culture of the society that the organization is in consideration, but also the culture of the organization. Organizations always develop a culture of their own and with time, their own moral values. Thus, as long as the activities that they engage in are ethical according to their culture, then they are in view as ethical by others, as well.
According to the theory, the only standards that the society or a person can be judged against are those that are in their society. Therefore, an organization will only be considered as having done something unethical if the action that they perform if unethical to their culture or to the culture of the society. There are no rules or common guidelines that can be used in this sense (LaFollette, 1991). This is because societies evolve in their own unique ways, so they cannot be governed by common rules of morality. This is because they have each developed different standards of moral values. People from different societies cannot agree on a single set of rules that they see as ethical to all of them. This means that tow businesses may not be able to agree on a set of ethical rules between themselves.
In the rights theory, a moral or an ethical activity does not have to be acknowledged and accepted by the community such that if the community agrees with them, then there is permission to guide the community. Rights that are in place need to be highly beneficial to the community not to, a small section of it, (Rainbolt, 2006). This means that the community is also the judge of what is in view as ethical or morally right. Rights are a state of how things are; the affairs of a certain organization will result in some people in the organization having some liberties, opportunities and resources. In this case, the right that some people have mat overpower the right of others, in that, as one group gets their rights, another may lose out.
The weight of one right against another is according to the number of people who will lose or benefit from a certain action taking place. An action with negative effect on fewer people is in view to be more ethical than that which benefits fewer people and harms more. An organization has a requirement to engage in ethical activities that will benefit most of the people even if it is at the expense of some (Rainbolt, 2006). It will not be viewed to be an unethical act towards those who have not benefitted from the action since they are fewer. This theory also holds that, rights sometimes meant moral values in the society, and may have to be put aside on the basis that they will not benefit as many people as the right will. Thus, there are some societal, moral values that the organization will ignore or fail to adhere to because they will benefit less people. A wrong thing may be upheld if it benefits the most people.
News of the new world
One of the ethical issues that are evident with the NoW is that they encouraged getting news at any cost. This means that the methods used may harm those involved in the story, but this was not an issue. According to the utilitarianism theory, this action is not morally wrong because it results in the happiness of the seekers of news (Business Ethics: Utilitarianism, 2005). The consequence is that they are happy and, therefore, the action is not wrong. The end justified the means that the journalists used to get this information. Journalists were a terror, and the organization needed to sell news if they were to prosper, and become successful and subsequently be happy. Journalists did not do anything that was morally wrong since, they ended up experiencing success and happiness because they got the stories they wanted. In addition, journalists got to develop a competitive culture, and this made them happy since, the writer reported that a non competitive atmosphere was dull.
However, the activities that the NoW journalists engaged in were not in perspective as morally right by everyone. In the Kantian Deontology, they are in the account of negative and unethical since, they have not adhered to the rules that were in place for journalists (Bowie, 2002). In addition, there are general rules that in place for people in an organization on how they should deal with their clients and sources of information. These rules were not in observation, and encouragement to journalists was to take any step that was necessary to get the news that they need.
Journalists have a right to go after news and inform people. The public also have a right to get news about what is happening around them. In this case, journalists have permission to do what they have to get the news. The right of the subject of the news is in override by the right that the public has to news of what is happening around them (Rainbolt, 2006). The framework of the right theory would see the actions that the journalists take at NoW as ethically right.
Other than that, the culture at NoW has cultivated their news seeking skills in such a way that they were a terror and few people were willing to share information with them. As a result, they had to develop a culture where they are vicious in their pursuit of news. Since this is their culture, they have not engaged in unethical activities (LaFollette, 1991). This stems from ethical relativism. According to the justice theory, democracy and equality should be upheld at whatever cost; failure to do so means that a person has engaged in an unethical activity (Baker, 2008). As the journalists rushed to get news and the latest stories, they became rivals and caused those they reported about to lose their right of responding and at equally representation. In addition, the journalists also developed a culture of fierce competition so that they did not mind doing things like hacking other people’s phones to get a story. Businesses should adhere to ethical codes that are beneficial to them and their clients. Theories of business ethics are different, and they define different aspects. It is the choice of businesses to decide on the theory that will suit them best.