Research Paper on Business Ethics

Introduction
Traditionally, business was associated with the use of methods and approaches that did not always meet the existing moral standards. As the matter of fact, the history of the formation of the contemporary business, starting from the industrial revolution and ongoing development of capitalism to the present epoch, reveals the fact that business and economic interests of companies often varied consistently from the interests of a considerable part of society or, at least, did not meet the existing and declared moral standards. In this regard, it is possible to mention the cooperation of some western companies with the Nazi regime in Germany and the revelation of the fact that the Swiss banks, for instance, were also involved in cooperation with Nazi regime proves that the morality and business are not always compatible. In such a situation, the question of business ethics naturally arises.

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In fact, the contemporary business attempts to create a positive image in order to gain the customers’ recognition and approval. In such a situation, it is really important to meet the moral standards of society and avoid arguable decisions. At the same time, it is important to understand the fact that the practical implementation of moral principles of business ethics is not a one-sided, benevolent process organized and performed by companies but it also needs the public involvement and control.

The Kantian perspective for business ethics
First of all, it should be said that the problem of business ethics and morality of business is not new and its roots may be traced in the early history of the development of business. In fact, any economic activity inevitably involves moral issues. This is why it is possible to apply principles of business ethics to any economic activity. At the same time, it should be pointed out that the problem of morality disturbed many outstanding thinkers of different epochs. Among the most influential western philosophers, who produced a profound impact on the development of western philosophy at large and business ethics in particular, it is possible to name E. Kant.

Basically, Kant did not really develop a unique concept or branch of philosophy entirely dedicated to business ethics or business. In contrast, his views on business ethics and the problem of morality in business are rather developed in the context of his general philosophy than as a separate branch of his philosophy. As a result, his views on business ethics are closely intertwined with his views on morality and individual.

In this respect, it should be said that Kant emphasized the fact that the relationships between individuals, including business relations should be regulated by laws. In such a way, businessmen should take decisions and develop their business on the basis of the moral law. At the same time, Kant lays emphasis on the fact that the moral law should be universal by nature. This means that the moral law should be accepted by all people and it should guide all their actions. By means of the universal application of the moral law Kant expected to create a really moral society where ethic norms and principles would dominate over human primitive instincts and desires.

On the other hand, Kant argues that humans do not tend to be moral by their nature. Instead, he indicates to the fact that humans are more likely to focus on their personal needs and interests and ignore interests of other people. Consequently, human nature originally rejects the moral law, which should be universal, according to Kant. Such a rejection would be particularly strong if an individual deals with material benefits he/she can gain from his/her business. As a result, the business tends to be immoral in its essence.

This is why, Kant underlines the importance of human will since he believes that it is due to human will businessmen could be able to follow the norms and standards of the moral law and suppress their primitive instincts to obey to this law.
Thus, the Kant perspective for business ethics involves three basic postulates: the existence of the moral law, the universal character of the moral law, and the will of humans, namely businessmen, to follow the norms of this law.

The moral responsibility and accountability within a modern organization
Ideas of Kant, being distanced in time from the present epoch, are still very important and potentially they can be applied in the contemporary business. At any rate, it is obvious that the contemporary business, including the largest and most powerful companies, such as Shell, attempt to follow the basic principles of business ethics. Basically, the trend to the wider implementation of moral and ethical norms and the increasing role of business ethics in the contemporary business environment are determined by the objective needs of the contemporary business in customers’ support.

In this respect, it should be said that, being traditionally customer-oriented, the contemporary business pays even more attention to its positive image than it has ever done before. The importance to meet moral standards of the society is extremely significant for many companies because the deterioration of the public image of a company in the result of the violation of the existing moral norms and standards can undermine the market position of the company. Nowadays, companies operating in industries exposing the environment to a significant threat of the pollution are particularly susceptible to the negative effects of the violation of moral and ethical norms.

For instance, Shell, being one of the leading companies in the oil industry, may be viewed as one of the companies that is under the public control and it is forced to obey to the existing moral and ethical principles that are accepted in the contemporary society. What is meant here is the fact that the environment protection is one of the primary concerns of the contemporary society. This is why Shell has started the policy of the creation of a positive image of the company as the company that takes care about the environment and that widely implements environmentally friendly technologies. Though, in actuality, Shell inevitably contributes to the environment pollution since oil industry is one of the major source of the air pollution and development of greenhouse effect.

At the same time, the efforts of Shell to create a positive image of the environment friendly company often encounter serious challenges. For instance, on August 1989 Shell has discovered the leak of oil from its pipeline in the River Mersey. The company attempted to stop the leak immediately and informed the fire brigade about it. The incident became well-known to the mass public due to the interference of media and, even though the outcomes of the leak were liquidated in a relatively short term and the effects on the environment were not so disastrous as they could be or as they were in other similar cases, such as Exxon Valdez incident, Shell was obliged to pay a substantial fine, one million pounds, while cleaining-up and reconstruction operations took 3,9 million pounds. In addition the company spent over 2 million on prevention of further incidents.

In such a way, it is obvious that, on the one hand, the contemporary company, such as Shell, should develop its business which may be dangerous for environment or may raise ethical issues. In such a situation, companies attempt to minimize possible negative effects of their ethically sensitive activities and fully meet the moral and ethical standards established in the society. At the same time, it is necessary to underline the fact that companies do not always do it in accordance with their free will but rather under the pressure of the public. The example of Shell discussed above reveals the fact that the company had already known the negative effects of similar incidents for other companies that had occurred before the incident discussed. This is why the company immediately took actions to stop the leak and demonstrate its readiness to protect environment at all costs. In such a context, it is possible to speak about the willingness of the company to meet the ethical standards which are accepted by society, namely environmental concerns. In this regard, it is possible to speak about the will of the company, according to Kantian views, to follow the moral law accepted by the society.

However, it is important to underline that the moral is not fully developed yet and it is not really universal. This means that the contemporary business ethics works only in well-developed countries, while developing countries are deprived of this benefit. As a result, bribery, environment pollution and other problems are widely spread there, while in developed countries they are morally unacceptable.

Conclusion
Thus, taking into account all above mentioned, it is possible to conclude that the modern business is forced to apply norms and principles of business ethics. The morality is a very important factor that defines the market position of the company in the contemporary business environment, though moral laws and business ethics do not works always and everywhere effectively.

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