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Resources - Ethics and Social Responsibility
Business Ethics
Ethics Theories on Macro Level
MBA Oath
MultiCultural versus InterCultural
Social Responsibility

Ethics. We know when it is there, we know when it is not. How will our actions be guided by our beliefs? What impact and legacy will we leave with the people we lead, the people who follow and those who we serve? Ethical conditions, dilemmas and boundaries are crossed every day in our personal and business lives. Listed below are several views on ethics and social responsibility.

Business Ethics

Business ethics are guiding principles that help us decide on appropriate actions. We may say the right thing but our actions will speak louder. You never know who is watching. A short term gain, a selfish pursuit can be the beginning of a long term loss down the money hole in terms of team engagement, personnel retention, customer base declines and even outside intervention. There are no absolute or indisputable rules or principles for deciding whether an action is ethical or unethical. The Institute for Certified Professional Managers ( condenses the ethics paradigm into the following figure:

  1. Does my decision fall within the acceptable standards that apply in business today?
  2. Am I willing to see the decision communicated to all people and groups affected by it?
  3. Would the people with whom I have a significant personal relationship approve of the decision?
Application of ethics however is more complicated. In the business world the following additional ethics philosophies will have bearing on our decisions. The strength of our convictions will determine if we will sway from them.
  1. Business ethics (a good example is the MBA oath outlined above)
  2. Individual ethics (what does my heart and soul tell me is the right thing to do?)
  3. Managerial ethics (How do I maintain procedural or distributive justice?)
  4. Occupational ethics (what are the guiding principles I have sworn to abide by in my profession if I am a lawyer, a doctor, a priest?)
  5. Societal ethics (what are the expectations of my community, my neighbors?)
  6. Traditions also play a role in our ethical thought process with folkways, mores and values
Our behaviors and our responses will tell the world who we are as individuals.

Ethics Theories on a Macro Level

In the book, Basic Moral Philosophy, Robert L. Holmes (Wadsworth Publishing Company, Belmont, California 1993) suggests that in general, based on environmental conditioning, individuals will subscribe directly or subliminally to a variety of ethical theories such as those given below:

Ethical Egoism One ought always to maximize one's own personal good
Divine Command theory Whatever God commands is right
Kantianism One ought always to act on maxims that can be universalized
Utilitarianism One ought to always maximize the general good
Principal of Justice One ought always to act justly
Ethics of Love One ought to always act lovingly
Ethics of Nonviolence One ought always to act nonviolently

At first glance, all of these theories have merit but the "Principal of Justice" for example, could be in conflict with "Utilitarianism" if the just act serves the few, and not the majority. In traditional politics, one can see many examples of "Ethical Egoism" being in conflict with "Utilitarianism" between Republicans and Democrats, and with the candidates themselves.

As a universal premise though, individuals are oblivious to ethical theories and the ramifications of each. On a national scale, these same tug-of-war dialogues take place between the Executive and Legislative branches in the United States. Fortunately, the Founding Fathers created a third equally powerful branch in the Judicial system (Principal of Justice) to render judgment and balance out the powers.

MBA Oath

In 2009, Harvard Graduate students created two versions of an MBA Oath that have circulated the world. The following is the shortened version:

As a manager, my purpose is to serve the greater good by bringing people and resources together to create value that no single individual can build alone. Therefore I will seek a course that enhances the value my enterprise can create for society over the long term. I recognize my decisions can have far-reaching consequences that affect the well-being of individuals inside and outside my enterprise, today and in the future. As I reconcile the interests of different constituencies, I will face difficult choices.

Therefore, I promise:

  • I will act with utmost integrity and pursue my work in an ethical manner
  • I will safeguard the interests of my shareholders, co-workers, customers, and the society in which we operate
  • I will manage my enterprise in good faith, guarding against decisions and behavior that advance my own narrow ambitions but harm the enterprise and the societies it serves
  • I will understand and uphold, both in letter and in spirit, the laws and contracts governing my own conduct and that of my enterprise
  • I will take responsibility for my actions, and I will represent the performance and risks of my enterprise accurately and honestly
  • I will develop both myself and other managers under my supervision so that the profession continues to grow and contribute to the well-being of society
  • I will strive to create sustainable economic, social, and environmental prosperity worldwide
  • I will be accountable to my peers and they will be accountable to me for living by this oath
  • This oath I make freely, and upon my honor
  • The .pdf version can be found here.

    Multicultural versus Intercultural

    On the surface these two terms appear to have the same meaning but they do not and their application has subconscious effects on our interactions. People can "feel" the underlying belief factor and disparate views create unspoken subliminal tensions. The main difference between intercultural and multicultural is interaction versus representation. Within the U.S., the term multicultural is used more frequently, whereas internationally, the term intercultural is preferred.

    Multicultural Societies: Different cultures, nationalities, ethnicities, religious groups, etc. all living within the same territory BUT not necessarily coming into contact with each other. A multicultural society is one where difference is often viewed negatively and forms major justification for discrimination. Minorities may be tolerated passively, but not accepted or valued.

    Intercultural Societies: Different cultures, nationalities, ethnicities, religious groups, etc. living together within a territory, who maintain open relations of interaction, exchange and mutual recognition of their own and others' respective values and way of life. InterCulturalism is a process of active tolerance and the maintenance of equitable relations where everyone has the same importance, where there are no superiors or inferiors, or better or worse people.

    Social Responsibility

    At times, it seems like the forces pulling us apart are stronger than the forces binding us together.
    Argument turns too easily into animosity. ...
    Too often we judge other groups by their worst examples, while judging ourselves by our best intentions.

    President George W. Bush. July 12, 2016

    "I help people make quality decisions in situations where there are differences, similarities and related tensions."
    R. Roosevelt Thomas, Jr
    Diversity Consultant, Author
    The statement above implies an earnest evaluation of the possibilities and an amalgamation potential for a win-win outcome.


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