BUSINESS ETHICS – CHALLENGES AND RESPONSIBILITIES

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ETHICS – refers to a set of core principles and practices one adopts in all facets of life that is just, right and lawful. In the context of a business, it encompasses a set of operating principles which are based on the three core values listed above.  While “profit making” is a fundamental objective of any business and no ethical principle stands restraining profit making in a business, it is important to understand that profit making is not the singular objective of any business. “Business” is a professional practice and engagement, small or big, individual or systemic, that creates an environment for delivery of certain products, processes, objectives and environment for a better, happy and healthy society; and it gets paid for the services, supplies and the quality it delivers to empower and enhance the life systems of the individual or the community. However, in a competitive market, entrepreneurial interests manifest into market monarchy and interests to unlimited access, reach and intrusion into consumer requirements. In such an attempt for dominance, basic ethical practices or either marginalized, ignored, suspended or sacrificed. One cannot blame the business world exclusively for lapses in ethical behaviours, oftentimes their survival in the market remains questionable and challenged if the governing systems of the State are non-facilitative, corrupt or unethical. In order to achieve the objectives, the ‘business community” willfully or unwillingly yield to the existent pressures, thereby leading to a chain of unethical practices from the time of acquisition of resources to the end of the consumption cycle.

Some common issues faced in the business world are:

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1.      Facing unfair and unscrupulous licensing practices

2.      Non-adherence to the legal specifications in establishments

3.      Subverting the specifications of Standard operating procedures

4.      Non-delivery of the commitments made in and during the start of the enterprise

On a similar note, unfair ethical practices are adopted in:

1.      Acquisition and use of standard specified resources

2.      Compromises on production standards

3.      Dubious quality delivery practices causing trust deficit

4.      Mismatch between consumer assurances and consumer deliveries

5.      Declining quality and standards of the products after branding

6.      Unethical market practices causing financial burden on consumers

There could be many more.

In a broad perspective, the following dimensions need to be addressed by any business enterprise, small or big.

a.      TRUST

The producer- Market – and the consumer form a Trust Web which operates on mutual consent and engagement. It applies to all types of business, services and enterprises. Any practice, decision of a delivery which forfeits this trust will sooner or later will ring the alarm bells in the organization leading to its value depreciation in a short or a reasonable period of time. When business systems think that they can carry on so long it is unnoticed, they only catalyze their downfall, may be at a later date. I believe, the words of Warren Buffet are worth remembering “it takes twenty years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin that. If you think about that, you will do things differently.”

Globally, a number of evidences exist on trust lapses by even companies which have a huge long-standing business. Case studies in many of them indicate that such downfalls have occurred more due to “short term visions’ ‘excessive urge to penetrate into markets” and “early and easy profits.”

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Trust facilitates long term engagement of the company with its consumers. Trust rewards the company with stable and sustainable markets. Trust is a value which no business can afford to forfeit.

b.       Respect and value for Human Resources

Products, services and deliveries are made through human resources and to the human clientele. Hence, whatever be the business model, appreciation of the human resource engagement both at the organizational level and at the consumer level needs to be taken note of. That reflects ‘the heart’ of the business. Any decision, practice or attempt that would undermine the value profile of the human resources is a disservice to a society. Operating procedures, therefore, need to be compassionate, sensitive and fair to accommodate, the physical, mental and emotional needs of the human participants at all operational levels. Any attempt to fake practices to create false impressions, belief systems that would enrage the human populace will crumble the business profile in a phased manner.

C.      Market Practices

Any business needs clean market practices, fair, objective, committed and sensitive. While all market operators in the system need to be beneficiaries of the business model and its engagement, it is evident that unethical reach-out practices to clients, system supporters and other affiliates in business delivery ladder causing false impression, images, commitments have become the order of the day, in a sheer attempt to scale the growth profile. It is important to understand that the growth profile of the business with such unethical approaches creates a social pressure for expansion of negative business practices in the entire universe of operating markets. While it may be advantageous to a company looking for expansion of numbers in terms of its units of products and resultant profits, it becomes a threat to a healthy social set up and promotes decline in the value profile of the society.

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Business systems, in a global competitive environment, are facing a number of challenges and probably, the business community needs strong vision and value-based thought leadership to deal with emerging markets to uphold their own ethical practices.

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