Business ethics is a very murky subject that people don’t like to dive into. There are loads of questions raised about the ethical repercussions of many business practices all over the world. It begs the question, can you truly run an ethical business? Is it possible to look at a company and say with confidence that it is ethical?
It’s a tough question to ask as there are loads of variables and talking points to discuss. So, that’s precisely what we’ll do in this post! Let’s look at some of the key talking points to finally hash out an answer to the question…
Is marketing ethical?
Marketing campaigns form the backbone of every business, but are they ethical? Is it ethical to try to push products towards certain people by preying on their likes and dislikes? Things have become even murkier in modern times as you use data and information to shift adverts to specific people online. I’m sure we’ve all had instances where we’ve spoken about a product with our friends, only to see an Instagram ad for that product a few minutes later. Can we say the way businesses gain marketing information is ethical?
It’s a tricky question because there are arguments either way. But, the fact that there’s a section of marketing called ethical marketing suggests that traditional marketing practices might not be ethical.
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Do businesses adhere to an ethical code of conduct?
To qualify as a lawyer, doctor, or dentist, you have to pass ethical code of conduct tests. Not only that, but you must register with organizations that hold you to these codes. Are businesses held to the same standard? In short, no, they’re not. You have organizations like the BBB that claim to protect consumers from bad businesses, but is that the same? The Debt To Success System BBB research suggests that it isn’t the same and that the BBB is far from an ethical institution.
So, can you really have an ethical business if you are not held to a code of conduct? Technically, there are no rules around ethics in the general business world – unless you’re in the healthcare industry. You could argue it’s hard to run an ethical company if nobody is regulating it!
How do businesses impact society?
This is the big ethical question; how does a business impact the rest of society? An ethical business should have a positive impact on society by doing things that benefit others. This could be campaigning for a higher minimum wage – leading by example in that domain. It could be using ethical manufacturing and only choosing ethical supplies, reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
Suppose your business has a positive impact on society. Does this instantly make it ethical, or do the other issues also come into play? Again, there’s no easy answer to this question!
In conclusion, you can argue that it is possible to run a 100% ethical business. However, you have to follow ethical marketing, regulate your own code of conduct, and positively impact society. When starting a business, you should definitely think long and hard about your ethics. If you run an ethical company, it could put you in a favorable position within the market, making you more attractive to customers.