Business Ethics extend beyond the obvious
Written by Des Squire
Business Ethics has been defined as “the behaviour that a business adheres to in its daily dealings with the world” (Wisegeek.com)
In considering this I must draw from happenings in business during the course of the past few years. The dishonesty, price fixing, collusion and suspect business practices leads me to question if we as business people have any concept of the meaning and application of business ethics.
Business ethics are very diverse and apply not only to how business is conducted, how business deals with customers and how business leaders interact with each other.
Far too many businesses are concerned with one thing only - making money and satisfying the shareholders. Making money is not wrong and satisfying the shareholder’s is not wrong what is wrong is when this is done at the expense of others, when this is at the expense of the customer and consumer.
It is the manner in which businesses conduct themselves and make profits that brings the question of business ethics into the equation.
Good business ethics should be a part of every business. There are many factors to consider. When a company does business with another company in the knowledge that company is considered unethical, does this make the first company unethical by association?
YES - they are condoning and supporting unethical behaviour and this makes them guilty by association.
Example of unacceptable business ethics is the impact the need for profits and satisfying shareholder’s is having on medical aids, insurance companies, pensions and investment institutions, suppliers of food related products and other industries that impact on the basic essentials of life and survival.
It is a fact these institutions must make profit but when such profits are achieved through unethical practices (as we have seen over the past few years) then such companies must be dealt with in the harshest possible manner. The CEO’s and directors of such companies must be held accountable.
Unethical practices for example in the “rip off” of the medical aid companies by unscrupulous clinics and hospitals must be stopped – is this done with the knowledge of the medical aids?
Chemists charging twice to three times the price because medicine is prescribed must be stopped. Escalating premiums and contributions to policies and pension plans at exaggerated rates just to make additional profits must be stopped.
Inflating food prices for various unethical reasons must be stopped.
Many businesses, in fact most of the major brands, do not think too highly of good business ethics or corporate governance issues. Many major corporations, as we have recently seen, have been fined millions for breaches of business ethics and corporate laws. The bottom line is that it always comes down to making money and increasing profits.
When companies break the law or behave unethically they are fined amounts of money which when compared to the profits made, at the expense of the customer, are insignificant.
Many companies object to being regulated by laws, rules and regulations and these are usually the companies who are “ripping off” their customers and who are stealing from the public. Theft is theft and is a criminal offence. It is time companies faced prosecution and that directors of such companies were held accountable.
We the consumers, we the public, we the members of the medical aids and the clients of the insurance companies need to take a firmer stand against unethical business practice. We need to source companies who pride themselves on their ethical practices and give these companies our support – problem is that they are few and far between.
Des Squire - des at amsiandassociates.co.za