Social responsibility and business ethics
The spectacular collapses in 2002 of Enron and WorldCom, two leading American Chapter corporations, have fuelled the already lively UK debate about corporate social responsibility and business ethics. In Britain, people’s perceptions have been influenced by a number of high-profile cases (including the BCCI failure, the Barings Bank ‘rogue trader’ fiasco, directors’ pay and genetically modified food, for example) that have called into question the ethical standards of some companies. However, these instances should not allow us to lose sight of the fact that there is a long tradition of ethical behaviour in business. From the Quakers (who believed that it was morally unacceptable to exploit their workers to make money) to The Body Shop (with its championing of environmental causes), companies have sought to ‘do the right thing’. This raises two questions for managers:
1. What is ‘the right thing’ to do in business? 2. How do we ensure that ‘the right thing’ is done?