One of the most important questions in all businesses is, whether businesses have any moral responsibilities at all beyond simply earning as much of a profit as possible for their owners? If you look at it from the business point of view they are only responsible for making a profit. The company is an agent of the shareholders and is responsible only to them, and only for making a profit. Looking at it from the consumer point of view the company is responsible to everyone who has a stake in the operations of that business, that is, everyone who is affected. This includes shareholders but also employees, consumers, suppliers, and the surrounding community. I feel that answer to that question is yes, businesses do have moral responsibilities beyond the company making a profit. I believe that a company has to be moral beyond its standards because it is obliged by utilitarianism. Utilitarianism can be defined as an ethical theory that is based upon the moral worth of an action, which is primarily determined by its contribution to overall utility in maximizing happiness or pleasure as a whole among all people. The adequacy of utilitarianism can play a huge role in a company’s morals because it can be seen as the only intrinsically valuable end. Companies have to make many important decisions that may affect a great deal of people, but when these decisions are made whether by a ceo, executive board of directors, or middle management all aspects of the outcome should be taken into deliberation. A group of people come together and form a company so that they are able to accomplish something collectively that they cannot accomplish separately. If companies can produce goods and services more efficiently than the individual then it is not unreasonable to say that they should have standards of morality and ethics above those of the individual. Collective standards of ethics and morality should be more vigorous than those of an individual. Moral responsibilities are about businesses and organizations going beyond the legal obligations to manage the impact they have on the environment and
society. Companies interact with their employees, suppliers, customers, and communities in which they operate, as well as the extent they attempt to protect the environment. In an effort to continue having a strong relationship with its environment and consumers the company should do whatever is necessary to keep them happy. If a company does just the minimum, then it is clear that if there wasn’t a set standard such as legal obligations, then they wouldn’t abide by them at all. If a company exceeds its obligations then, it is clear that the company is going beyond the expected for a reason, which is to satisfy its consumers. When a company does things such as questioning shareholders, employees, customers, and outside experts about how its services and infrastructure impedes - or might be able to help economic development that shows that they care and want to see things change for the better. Without a sense of morality and ethics, they can disadvantage large sections of the world to benefit their shareholders. Some of the management excesses associated with these corporations suggests that sometimes they are not even fully accountable to shareholders.
As Kant stated an action is moral in itself not because of its consequences but because any rational being wills it to be a universal law and it does not contradict itself. It is true that being moral and being legal are not the same. Morals are a set of conducts that are not enforceable such as laws. With the two being different, it usually raises the issue whether companies are or should be moral in which the acts they partake. There are many laws that have come about to reduce dishonest acts but they still can’t implement the company to be moral. Morality may be viewed in many different ways because not everyone will see a particular issue in the same sense. Businesses have the upper hand when it comes to helping. There are times when failing to help is to harm, so companies could be considered morally wrong for not doing good. Companies obligations to the world as far as how moral they should be depends upon the company or business. For instance the automotive industry should really focus on trying to make if they haven’t already done so on making more fuel efficient/hybrid vehicles to reduce emissions. Many consumers enjoy the pleasure of riding in larger vehicles such as SUV’s but those vehicles produce the most pollution. In order to
reduce the pollution while still producing quality and enjoyable vehicles to travel in, they should focus on ways of working the two out for the greater good of the company and consumer. Education is another important factor that can be used as a moral responsibility when it comes to consumers. Companies should have educations program set up for students, especially rising college students because they will be the people that may come and work for the company or enter corporate America so companies should engage in funding to assist young adults in furthering their education. A business doesn’t have to be limited with their moral responsibilities, but I think that they should at least focus on the area in which their company provides business. A company may not be responsible for making the world a better place, but it is responsible for avoiding harm. Vicarious liability, whether in ethics or the law, is a responsibility arrangement in which the party held to be liable to punishment or other responsive measures is not the party that performed the morally or legally faulty action that caused some harm or other untoward consequence. An example of vicarious liability applied to individuals is the assumption in some organizational settings that the person at the top of the hierarchy of authority is ultimately liable for the actions of the organization and its members. For example, global warming, there are ways to prevent global warming such as being supplied by renewable energy, create zero waste and sell products that sustain the resource and environment. Not all companies are trying to prevent things of that nature, which only leads to the continuation of these activities that will affect us all in the long run. When a company is morally responsible outside of its standards it benefits them more than it could hurt them. Many business people appear to be finding that by acceptance stakeholder theory they are enhancing shareholder wealth. Taking on a moral position is more of a business opportunity. If corporate managers take their eye off profit maximization as the only reason for their existence, then long term they tend to be more profitable and stable. Social responsibility and sustainable business practice are, of course, no guarantees of success. Socially responsible companies fall if management practices are not sound but, a combination of good business practice with social responsibility and sustainable business practice will give advantages not only to shareholders but to other stakeholders. A corporation, in spite of its organizational
complexity, is ultimately a group of human beings engaged among themselves in various specific occupational/professional relationships that each believes to be in his/her self-interest. Corporate actions result from policies and procedures intentionally designed by members of the corporation to achieve specific goals. When harm or wrongdoing occurs, individual members are morally responsible in proportion to the degree each participated in policy formulation, implementation, or error.
While profits are an important factor in the life of a business, everyone in society to at least make an attempt to make life better. Businesses rely on society for their businesses to operate and would not run if it weren’t for society. Businesses need the infrastructure that society brings to the table such as consumers and employees. A business that lives up to its moral responsibilities, lives up to its obligations and to the mutual benefit the company and its consumers so a global common can be created allowing everyone that plays a part, to benefit and reap the rewards of the company.
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