Business Ethics




LO1,1.1: Business article: The development of ethical perspectives

Thefield ethics attracts many controversies, which has led to thedevelopment of varying definitions. However, the standard definitionconsiders ethics a set of moral principles that guide behavior of anindividual person or a group of people (Malloy, 2013, p. 60). Inessence, principles of ethics help people and groups of peopledetermine whether different actions are morally wrong or right.Similar ethical principles determine how businesses operate. Businessethics refers to a set of moral principles that guide business peoplein taking ethical actions when making decisions that affect theirstakeholders (Salehi, 2012, p. 2). These ethical principles have beendeveloped by different theorists in different times as considered inTable 1.

Table 1: The development of ethical perspectives



Theorists and dates

Advantages / strengths

Disadvantages / weaknesses

Consequentialism: holds that the decision on whether an action is wrong or right depends on its consequences (Sophus, 2000, p. 3). Examples of consequentialist perspectives include utilitarianism and ethical egoism.

Relativism: This is an ethical concept that is based on the notion that truth, morality, and knowledge exists in relation to society, culture, and historical culture, but they are not absolute (Westacott, 2014, p. 1). Relativists depend on the approval of other people to determine whether certain actions are wrong or right.

-Relativism is one of the ethical perceptions that acknowledge the existence of individual differences. This promotes tolerance in the society because relativists understand that different people can have varying views on one subject matter.

-Relativism is entirely a product of people’s reason. This allows relativists to give human beings the responsibility for all actions that they take.

-Relativism allows people to evaluate actions in accordance with the prevailing situations (Swoyer, 2003, p. 1). This indicates that relativism is a concept that allows flexibility when judging the wrongness or rightness of actions.

-Relativism is a weak perspective that seems to give people a reason to be accepted by the society, instead of promoting morality (Swoyer, 2003, p. 1). This is confirmed by the high level of flexibility, which leads to the consideration of actions as being right just because other people have positive perceptions about them.

-The fact that culture is subject to regular changes does not imply that objective good does not exist (Swoyer, 2003, p. 1). This demonstrates the ineffectiveness of the perception of relativism.

Mahavira (599-527 BC)

Teleology: This is an ethical perspective that focuses on the ultimate purpose of each action in order to determine wrong or right. Those who uphold teleology evaluate the past in order to evaluate the consequences of the present action (Slick, 2015, p. 1).

-Teleology holds that there exist order and complexity in the world, which influences the actions taken by individuals (Blake, 2014, p.1). Complexities in the modern universe are things that people can see and comprehend their influence in one’s behavior.

-Teleology is based on experience. Every person has undergone some experiences that influence their future behavior. This makes the teleological perspective more realistic.

-Charles Darwin objected teleology on the grounds that the existence of order in the universe does not mean that that order is an outcome of purposeful activities. This means that it is difficult accept the perception that things occur naturally without appealing to some supernatural powers.

Plato (years 424 – 348 BCE

Virtue ethics: Virtue ethicists hold that the wrongness or the rightness of actions is always influenced by character traits that it expresses (Wilczenski, 2005, 1). Aristotle stated that the excellence of actions is derived from their virtues they promote or reflect. Aristotle held that happiness if the ultimate goal that human beings seek to achieve, but this can only be possible if people develop good character habits.

-Virtue ethics give a holistic view of the nature of human beings, which means that impact of emotions in building one’s character is taken into account.

-Virtue ethics promote obsolete morals by stating that agents should remain impartial, which contribute towards the placement of virtues at the core of morality.

-Virtue ethics focuses on the moral behavior of individuals, which limits its capacity to address bigger moral dilemmas (Wilczenski, 2005, 1).

-The perspective of virtue ethics is quite particularistic since it focuses on a few traits. This limits its capacity to deal with moral issues in the complex society.

Aristotle (years 384-322 BCE)

Deontology: This is an ethical perspective that holds that the wrongness or the rightness of actions should be derived from the inherent features of individual actions, as opposed to the consequences of those actions (Staveren, 2007, p. 22). This perspective was mainly advanced by Emanuel Kant, who opposed the business idea of trade off where people reach a compromise by balancing between two incompatible features. Kant held that the rights and the happiness of a few people should not, under any circumstances be sacrificed to benefit the majority.

-Deontology values motivation over consequences, which addresses the weaknesses utilitarianism that emphasize on consequences. Deontology holds that a good motive is quite worth of value, but immoral motives cannot be validated using good, but unforeseen consequences (Gaus, 2007, p. 2).

-Deontology advocates for justice that does not change with time or circumstances, which means that one’s justice remains absolute irrespective of the views of the majority.

-Kant’s perspective promotes the notion that moral obligations remain arbitrary unless they are referenced to duty. However, decisions are influenced by multiple factors in the real world (Gaus, 2007, p. 2).

-Kant based the argument on the concept of universalizability of actions, but the fact that universalization does not necessarily make actions moral commands makes deontology an absurd perspective.

Immanuel Kant (years 1724-1804)

Utilitarianism: Jeremy Bentham held that the right action should focus on maximizing the happiness of the greatest number of people affected by the action (Sophus, 2000, p. 3). John Stuart Mill developed the concept of rule utilitarianism, which holds that people should follow rules that tend to yield the greatest happiness. Stuart differed with Bentham by trying to distinguish between pleasures in terms of their quality and quantity. The popular concept of free market satisfies the basic principle of utilitarianism by creating a balance between demand and supply.

-Utilitarianism is considered as the egalitarian concept that gives personal autonomy to all people, which means that the theory treats all people equally.

-Utilitarianism is a realistic concept that is founded on real psychology and works with people and the society as it finds it.

-The fact that utilitarianism focuses on the maximization of happiness makes it a realistic perspective because people prefer pleasure to pain (Nathanson, 2013, p. 1).

-Utilitarianism is a general perspective that treats all types of pleasure equal and includes all species, not just human beings.

-The emphasis placed on pleasure makes utilitarianism a primal view of humanity because people and businesses do not exist to pursue pleasure only.

-It is difficult to predict the consequences at times, which leads to actions that minimize the greater good of the general public, making utilitarianism an unreliable concept (Nathanson, 2013, p. 1).

Jeremy Bentham (1748-1831)

John Mill (1806-1873)

Ethical egoism: Holds that actions are considered to be right if they maximize the happiness of the agent. This perspective was developed by different thinks. For example, Ayn Rand held that the highest moral purpose of human beings is to achieve their own happiness (Kalin, 2010, p. 323).

-Ethical egoism is considered as the most realistic perspective because it reflects moral behaviors that are currently being practiced where many people are interested in their personal happiness and are less conscious about the impact of their actions on others (Kalin, 2010, p. 323).

-An appropriate ethical theory would be expected to form the basis of how human beings should act instead of advocating for self-centeredness like the ethical egoism does.

-Ethical egoism promotes self-interest actions irrespective of their effect on other people, which is a way of justifying immorality in the society.

Ayn Rand 1964

1.2:Comparing and contrasting deontology and relative theories

Moralabsolutism and moral relativism are two conflicting ethicalperspectives. Moral absolutism refers to an ethical perspective thatholds that human actions should be considered intrinsically wrong orright (Cook, 2014, p. 1). For example, evading taxes in the businessworld is intrinsically immoral irrespective of whether the companydoes it to resolve its financial constraint. Moral relativism, on theother hand, refers to a perspective that actions can only be judgedto be wrong or false when assessed relative to some standpoint(Shanks, 2000, p. 1). The application of relativism in businessimplies that the determination of whether tax evasion is wrong orright depends on practices upheld in individual jurisdictions inwhich the company operates. Most importantly, the concept ofrelativism is used in the world of business to help employeesaccommodate diversity, especially in the modern workforce that ischaracterized by multiculturalism. The two ethical perspectives haveone major similarity. The two perspectives hold that there exist somebasic principles that guide behavior. However, these principlesshould be ethical, as opposed to religious or legal.

Themain difference between moral relativism and moral absolutism isbased on the relationship between the wrongness and rightness of actswith the context in which they are taken. Moral relativism holds thatthe consideration of what is moral varies from one place to anotherwhile absolutism holds that wrong or rights action remain wrong orright irrespective of the place or the cultural context or thesituation that the agent is in. Applying these differences in thecase of tax evasion, a moral relativist would justify the act byassessing the financial condition of the business that tempted themanagement to evade taxes. However, a moral absolutist would judgethe act of tax evasion as being immoral irrespective of the financialsituation of the business.

Ethicaltheories were advanced by different theorists in different times.Although these theories are based on different assumptions, they helpcompanies and individuals in making ethical decisions. Mostimportantly, companies that use ethical theories in making decisionsprotect their image and establish a good relationship with theirclients. This helps them achieve their objectives.

Tasktwo: Pfizer case study

2.1&amp 1.3: Impact of ethical considerations on Pfizer’s objectives

Pfizeris a multinational company that operates in the pharmaceuticalindustry with its headquarters in New York. The company was startedin 1849 by a German American named Charles Pfizer (Slick, 2015, p.1). Pfizer deals with pharmaceutical products (such as lipotor,prevnar, and Zoloft) and consumer health products (includingrobitussin and chapstik). Pfizer has been producing these productsusing the most justifiable methods with the objective of offering theworld with products that can prevent diseases and treat killerdiseases, such as cancer. However, the company has been accused ofseveral unethical practices, such as using animal models and childrento assess the efficacy of its drugs, bribing doctors in Russia andChina, and Bulgaria to recommend its drugs (Horwich, 2012, p. 1).

Missionand vision

Pfizer’smission is to become the most valued firm in the world to customers,patients, business partners, investors, and communities it works.

Pfizer’svision is to develop new and safe medical products that have thecapacity to prevent and cure the most critical diseases in the modernworld (Pfizer, 2015, p. 1). The company also strives to make theseproducts available to all people.

Aimsand objectives

Pfizerhas a set of five objectives:

  • To advance prevention, wellness, cures, and treatment

  • To bring the best research and scientific brains together with the objective of challenging the deadly diseases

  • To maximize its financial performance in order to enhance its ability to meet its commitments to people who rely on its existence

  • To set standards for safety, value, and the quality of medicine

  • To become the leading voice for enhancing everyone’s capacity to access affordable and reliable health care

Thecompany pursues these objectives while observing its core values thatinclude leadership, integrity, customer focus, innovation, andrespect for the community and people.

Impactsof ethical considerations on Pfizer’s objectives

Corporatesocial responsibilities

TheCSR affects Pfizer’s objectives in several ways. First, the CSRpolicy puts the company under pressure to social responsibility toits consumers. This has been the major driving force towards thedevelopment of new products in order to help potential consumers whoare suffering from critical diseases, such as cancer (Pfizer, 2015,p. 1). Secondly, the CSR policy puts the company under pressure toassume the economic responsibility it has with its customers. Thishas forced Pfizer to pursue the objective of advocating foraffordable care. For example, it would be unethical if Pfizer chargesexorbitant prices for its products. This would create an image of acompany whose main objective is to make profits by exploiting itscustomers. This will reduce the company’s ability to pursue itsfinancial performance objectives in the long-run since customers willshift to cheaper products.

Environmentaland sustainability

Companiesdo not only exist to make profits, but they are also formed toimprove the lives of the communities in which they operate. Consumerscan decide to avoid products of a given company because of itsreputation of being socially irresponsible (Hill, 2014, p. 1).Therefore, Pfizer’s commitment to the environment and communitywill help it attract more consumers and achieve its financialtargets. It would be considered unethical if Pfizer disposes wasteproducts irresponsibly without considering their impact to theenvironment and the society. This would depict Pfizer as a firm thatis interested in financial gains without being concerned about theneeds of the society. This will limits the company’s ability topursue its disease prevention objective since waste products willincrease the risk of diseases.


Thepublic image has a direct and positive correlation with the company’sperformance. Unethical practices (such as the payment of bribes), onthe other hand, affect the image of the company in a negative way(Horwich, 2012, p. 1). Ethical considerations that are integratedinto CSR policies and environmental conservation measures can helpPfizer regain its reputation, which is important to employees whoneed to secure their jobs, shareholders who need more wealth from thecompany, and the managers who need to prove their competence andprotect their reputation. All unethical practices (such asirresponsible disposal of waste and charging exorbitant prices candamage the image of Pfizer. This can lead to a loss of customers anda decline in profitability. A decline in profitability will limitPfizer’s capacity to meet its performance objectives.

Implementingethical practices

Ethicalpractices protect the company’s reputation and conflicts with thejudicial system. This is because ethical principles help the managersas well as the employees in resolving ethical dilemmas and developsolutions that do not damage the reputation of the company (Horwich,2012, p. 1). Ethical practices will help Pfizer achieve its financialperformance targets by avoiding unnecessary expenses in the form offines.

2.2:Implications of operating ethically for Pfizer and its stakeholders

Pfizer’sinternal stakeholders

Employees:These are the people who are employed either permanently or on atemporary basis to carryout the company’s operations. Currently,Pfizers has about 78,000 employees (Pfizer, 2015, p. 1). Employeesare interested in job security, good pay, sense of purpose for thecurrent job, and opportunities to achieve personal development.

Leadersor managers: These are individuals who are bestowed with theresponsibility of overseeing the daily operations of the company onbehalf of the shareholders. Their interests in the form includequality management, company’s financial strength, quality of assetsthat can be used as security, and the ability of the company to repaycapital and interest.

Shareholders:These are people who invest their money in the company with theobjective of increasing their wealth. Their interest in the companyincludes growth in the value of assets, dividend payments, and theshare price.

Pfizer’sexternal stakeholders

Customers:These are people who consume the products offered to them by thecompany. Their interests include competitive prices, guaranteeprovisions, and quality products.

Supplies:These are people or firms that supply Pfizer with the materials itneeds to produce the biopharmaceutical products. Their interestsinclude adequate liquidity, integrity of directors, and timelypayment.

Government:This refers to a system that controls the state. The interests of thegovernment include adherence to the law, payment of taxes, provisionof employment to citizens, and get the value of money for publicfunds.

Implicationsof ethics on Pfizer

Ethicalpractices can affect Pfizer in different ways depending on the typeof practices that the company adopt or fails to adopt. Failure by thecompany to carryout its practices in an honest can damage itsreputation and image. For example, paying bribes to doctors in orderto entice them to prescribe the company’s drugs is a dishonestpractice (Horwich, 2012, p. 1). Failure to comply with ethicalstandards and practices reduce the profitability through the courtfines and risks the going concern of the affected company. Observingethics, on the other hand, will help Pfizer achieve its strategicobjectives. For example, the use honest means to get contracts andaccess international markets will enhance the image of the company.This will in turn boost its competitiveness compared to other corruptcompanies. Therefore, Pfizer will be able to boost its financialperformance and secure its going concern.

Implicationsof ethics on Pfizer stakeholders

Thekey interests of the employees include the job security and a betterpay. Employees will be more willing to observe ethics in order toprotect the image of the company for their own good.

Managersare interested in enhancing the financial strength of the company. Tothis end, effective managers should uphold integrity in their dailypractices and encourage their juniors to do the same. By doing this,the managers will play a key role in enhancing the financial strengthof the conflict by reducing its conflicts with the judicial systemand the loss of customers following a damage on its image.

Althoughshareholders to not take part in the daily management of theircompany, they understand that unethical practices can prevent themfrom creating wealth, which is their priority. However, they canremove unethical directors through resolutions in order to safeguardtheir investments.

Customersof the consumers of the biopharmaceutical products offered to them byPfizer are interested in quality, safe, and affordable products. Tothis end, customers are sensitive to the level of honesty that Pfizerapplies in pricing its products and giving information about theefficacy of the drugs. A feeling of betrayal through falseinformation and overpriced products will force customers to shift toproducts offered by Pfizer competitors.

Suppliesof Pfizer are concerned about the timely payment and the integrity ofdirectors in selecting suppliers. The lack of timely payment canresult in litigations that can damage the reputation of the companyand lead to a loss of reliable suppliers.

Thegovernment would expect the company to operate within the confines ofthe law, which include honesty in tax payment and avoidance ofcorruption. Unethical practices that subject the company intoconflicts with the government increase the risk of being closed andcharges. However, the government can support the company in complyingwith the ethical standards because of the contributions that thecompany has made in creating jobs and increasing the governmentrevenue through taxes.

Companiesexist to address the interests and the needs of their stakeholders,who include customers, shareholders, managers, employees, and thegovernment. Pfizer is a multinational corporation, whose decisionsand objectives are guided by the interests and the needs of itscustomers. Although some ethical practices (such as environmentalconservation and charging fair prices) seem to benefit consumers,Pfizer has also benefited through the enhancement of its image andretention of its competence in the market.

Taskthree: Marks and Spencer

3.1:Moral agents

Moralagent refers to an entity that has the ability to consider the moralaspects of wrongness and the rightness of each action. Moral agentshave the rights as well as the responsibilities to make choices. Inother words, moral agents have the duty to fulfill their respectiveresponsibilities and they are ready to be held responsible forfulfilling those responsibilities (Mendelson, 2015, p. 2).

Markand Spencer as a moral agent

Fromthe case study, Mark and Spencer can be considered to be an ethicalcompany because of its core values that include a focus on quality,service, value, innovation, and trust. For example, the company hasassumed the responsibility of offering quality services and productsand it can be held responsible by its customers for that particularresponsibility. Most importantly, the act of giving employees anequal opportunity depicts Mark and Spencer as a moral agent. This isbecause the company has taken up the responsibility of giving equalopportunities to its employees and these employees can hold thecompany responsible for their fair treatment.

Thecapacity to adopt an equal opportunity policy that guides the companyin treating all employees equally makes Mark and Spencer a uniquecompany. Equal treatment of employees is among the key areas thatmake the modern companies fail comply with ethical standards giventhe rapid increase in the diversity of the workforce (Green, 2005, p.2). With the current multicultural workforce where each employee hasdifferent personalities and social characteristics many companiesfind it a challenge to treat employees fairly, but Mark and Spencerhas managed to do this.

Beingconsidered as the most ethical business means that Mark and Spencerhas done more in the implementation of ethical principles as well aspractices than other businesses. Mark and Spencer have managed to dothis by adopting an effective Eco and Ethical plan that has allowedit to take care of its ecosystem and the interests of thestakeholders instead of focusing on the maximization of profits likemany companies do.

3.2:Employee involvement

Employeeinvolvement refers to direct participation of employees in helpingthe firm achieve its objectives (Grimsrud, 2006, p. 41). Themanagement plays a critical role in inviting and encouraging membersof staff who are talented differently to help the company pursue itsobjectives. Employee empowerment, on the other hand, refers to theprocess of allowing members of staff to have some control or input intheir work.

Markand Spencer encourage employee empower them through innovation andequal opportunities. The aspect of innovation is based on the notionthat employees should be given autonomy at work in order to give thema room to use their unique skills and abilities (Khattak, 2009, p.470). Innovation is achieved when employees are given the autonomy tocarryout their duties using their own ideas. This gives them theopportunity to learn through experience and take control over theirassigned duties. In addition, giving employees an equal opportunitymeans that all members of staff are respected and appreciated equallyfor the contributions they make in the company. This empowersemployees since they feel motivated and understand that the level oftheir ability is the only limit for getting promotion and otheropportunities since social characteristics are considered irrelevantby the company. Mark and Spencer achieve employee involvement byorganizing them into teams. The teams are them required to make theircontributions in different issues affecting their work or the companyin general.

Beinga moral agent is imperative given the increase in the sensitivity ofthe modern society to ethical and moral practices. Marker and Spencerserves as a moral agent by empowering its employees, giving allemployees equal opportunities, and adopting ethical principles thatother companies have not managed. Most importantly, Mark and Spencerempower its employees through innovation. In addition, Mark andSpencer involve employees in the process of decision making bygrouping them into teams.

Taskfour: Shell

4.1Introduction to the company, Shell, and an ethical issue

Shellis a multinational gas and oil company that has its headquarters inthe Netherlands. Shell was founded in 1907 and it is currently rankedas the forth largest multinational corporation in terms of itscapacity to generate revenue (Shell Global, 2015, p. 1). Shell’srange of products includes natural gas, petroleum, and otherpetrochemical products. Although Shell has managed to grow throughmergers, acquisition, and internationalization, its engagement incorruption has tarnished its reputation. In one of the recent issues,the management of shell was associated with a $ 1.1 billion scandalin Nigeria (Beurden, 2014, p. 1). This scandal, which was discoveredin 2014, pertained to the payments made by Shell subsidiaries for theacquisition of licenses to develop an off-shore oil block. However,it was later discovered that the money that Shell stated in itsaccounts as licensing payments went to an account of a private firmknown as Malabu Oil and Gas. The firm is owned by the former ministerfor Oil, Etete Dan, who has been under criminal investigation for awhile (Beurden, 2014, p. 1). Although the scandal could help Shellincreases its market share in the oil and gas sector, it has affectedthe image of Shell negatively and discouraged invested who own sharesin Shell.

4.2:Improving operations ethically

Thescandal in question, a 1.1billion bribe, can be avoided in the futurethrough adequate compliance with the law. By complying with the lawand regulations, the multinational company will be able to avoidlitigation being filed against it (Trainor, 2012, p. 1). Everycountry has a set of laws that govern business operations. Being amultinational company, Shell has the mandate to understand the lawsused in different countries and comply with them in order to avoidconflicting with the criminal judicial system. In addition,compliance will help the company protect the positive reputation ithas earned for close to a century since it was started. In addition,changing the attitude of the leaders of multinational corporate canplay a critical role in preventing future litigations. Someexecutives believe that they can only secure business deals inforeign countries through bribes. This can be reversed by helpingthese executives realize that they can secure businesses throughhonest means.

4.3:Shell’s ethical code of conduct

Compliancewith the regulations and law:

Ourethical code of conduct is straight forward: Every person working forShell must maintain the highest standards of integrity and ethics inall business operations. All our employees and managers must complywith the spirit as well as the letter of the applicable regulationsand laws. Our employees are expected to avoid any behavior or actionsthat could be perceived as being illegal, unethical, or improper.


Employeesand managers working for Shell are forbidden from takingopportunities that have been discovered using the corporate assets,position, or information without receiving the consent of the BOD.All persons working for Shell Corporation are also prohibited fromusing corporate resources illegally to secure corporateopportunities.

Fairdealing and competition:

Ourfocus is to outperform the market competition through honesty andfairness. To this end, our management is prohibited from securingbusiness deals through corruption, unauthorized access to proprietaryinformation, or trade secrets that are obtained without the consentof the owner.

Paymentsto the government personnel:

Ourpolicies prohibit giving items of value indirectly or directly to thegovernment officials or political candidates with the objective ofretaining or obtaining businesses.

Unethicalpractices risks the going concern and performance of establishedcompanies. Shell is a multinational company that has been growing formany years. However, unethical practices (such as the use of bribesto acquire business deals) have damaged the image the Shell. The mainstrategy that Shell can use to avoid unethical practices in thefuture is compliance with the laws guiding businesses in allcountries that it operates in. However, the establishment of aneffective ethical policy is the only long-term strategy to protectthe company from unethical practices.

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