Ethical Dilemmas: A Primer for Decision Makers
Ethical Dilemmas is for anyone interested in philosophy, but especially aimed at those who are in a position to make strategic decisions which involve a company's long term goals and values, in relation to the challenge of reconciling self-interest with ethics.
This isn't a manual on business ethics, nor am I advocating any particular code of business ethics. Ethical codes have their place in staff training courses and company PR. But no ethical business person ever relied on a code.
I don't accept the frequently touted view that it is always in a company's interest including its long term interest to be ethical. In the real world, unethical companies and corporations survive and prosper. A business ethicist who tells you that you that ethics will always pay in the long run is either self-deluded, or lying.
But I also reject the view that the only rational constraint on decision making in business is profit and loss. What this means in terms of the bottom line is that ethics and and a company's self-interest will inevitably come into conflict. The only effective way to resolve this conflict is to recognize that each must, on occasion, give way.
In the real world, ethics is something you pay for. In a good year, a company can afford to budget more for ethics, in a bad year less.
How is it possible to make this kind of existential judgement, which is neither strictly ethical nor self-interested? How do you judge how much you are prepared to pay for ethics? These are just some of the questions that Ethical Dilemmas seeks to resolve.
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