Positive impact of business ethics and 'social responsibilty on a company

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Deontology, or duty-based ethics is from the Greek word "deon" meaning duty or obligation. It addresses the practical problems of utilitarianism by considering certain actions to be right or wrong regardless of the benefits and costs produced by the actions. Deontologists believe that actions cannot be judged as ethical or unethical simply by examining their results. Instead, deontologists judge the ethics of actions by the motives that led to them and the means used (Gutman and Thompson 2004). The best known duty-based theory was developed by German philosopher Immanuel Kant. In Kant's theory, for an action to be ethical it must be reversible, universal, and treat others with respect and with their consent:

. Reversibility. Would the person taking the action be willing to have that action done to him or her if the roles were reversed?

. Universal. Would the person taking the action in question be willing to have everyone act that way?

. Is the person taking the action treating others with respect?

. Is the person taking the action treating others in ways that they have consented to be treated?

Kant's theory is a variation or derivation of the "Golden Rule" which instructs people to "treat others as you would want them to treat you." Some form of this rule is part of all the world's major religions (White 2009).

Utilitarianism is an ethical theory developed by British philosophers Jeremy Bentham and John Stuart Mill. It is outcome-based: it focuses on the results of an action. In this theory, an action is ethical if it produces the most good and the least harm for everyone affected by the action ("the greatest good for the greatest number."). Stated another way, an action is ethical if it maximizes net social benefits. Net social benefits is defined as social benefits minus social costs.

There are several important things to observe about this theory. First, this theory judges the ethics of an action solely in terms of the results produced by the action: it looks only at the ends, not the means. Second, the benefits and costs include any kind of good or harm, including things (such as the value of a human life) that may be difficult to value in precise noncontroversial ways. Third, the benefits and costs include those that happen now and those that happen in the future; future benefits and costs must be discounted to present value. Fourth, to be considered ethical, it is not enough that the action does more good than harm; the action must do the most good and the least harm to be judged ethical (MacIntyre 2006).

One criticism of utilitarianism is that it assumes the ends justify the means. Another criticism is that it requires the measurement of things that are difficult or impossible to measure in a meaningful way, such as the value of a human life. In applying this theory, one must ask: a) Who are the stakeholders?; b) What are the alternative courses of action?; c) For each alternative, what are the benefits and costs to each stakeholder now and in the future? d) Which alternative creates the most benefits and the least costs for all stakeholders together (Ibid)[continue]

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