ethics     Unethical business practices can run the gamut from behavior that is damaging to both business owners and their customers, all the way to what is considered borderline illegal. What looks like a bad decision on one business owner’s part can turn out to violate the unwritten code of fair practices.

A good example would be Wal-Mart’s long standing practice of making those companies who provide their products dependent upon them. They do this by forcing them to charge extremely low prices or find another outlet for their sales.

Dishonesty is one of the most common unethical behaviors we come across in business. False advertising is seen quite often in order to boost sales and profitability. Business owners and their employees take credit for the work of others and huge corporations are responsible for faulty items and machinery that quite often damage our environment and can lead to huge accidents that affect a large part of the population.

On a smaller scale, many businesses provide lousy customer service or none at all, fail to live up to their promises and treat people in a manner that while not illegal, is still not worthy of a business owner.

On the other hand, for the majority of business owners, integrity is everything. They have gained the trust of their customers and do whatever they can to maintain good business practices. Their employees and co-workers are treated with courtesy and their financial dealings are honest.

Many businesses have a code of ethics in place or a code of conduct which outlines the responsibilities and guidelines for all those who are connected with the business. A good example is Kraft, which has a code of ethical behavior with only 10 rules, but they manage to cover the most important values to guide their employee’s actions. Loyalty, honesty and value figure largely in their code.

The key components of the majority of business ethics emphasize:

1.    Values which involve all day to day dealings.
2.    Personal responsibility with information regarding legal and moral consequences if the code is violated.
3.    Principles, of all types including environmental and operational.

There are many other components which make up the whole of what are called business ethics and they are very similar to what we consider ethical in our daily lives. A business is only as profitable as its least ethical employee or member and standards of behavior count just as much in business as they do in everyday life. Surrounding yourself with ethical employees is the same as spending your personal life with honest, trustworthy people. It makes your company one which can be trusted and also one which customers like to do business with.

© Chris Draper, DemGen Inc. 2014

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