View Poll Results: Do businesses have any ethical responsibilities, beyond obeying the law?

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Thread: Do businesses have any ethical responsibilities, beyond obeying the law?

  1. #21
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    Re: Do businesses have any ethical responsibilities, beyond obeying the law?

    Quote Originally Posted by Kandahar View Post
    Do you believe that it's possible for a business to behave unethically even while acting within the bounds of the law? Or do you believe that as long as they're following the letter of the law they've fulfilled all of their responsibilities to society?

    The reason I ask this is because whenever someone on this forum points out a perceived ethical lapse of a corporation, there is a certain contingent of posters who invariably feel the need to chime in with "They're a private business, they can do what they want." This leads me to believe that some people think that legality and ethics are one and the same, and that businesses are morally justified in screwing over the public as much as possible as long as they obey the law.
    It's totally possible for corporate management to act completely within the law and still be unethical. Ethics and legality are two very different things. In fact, it is those companies who only toe the legal line who can be most guilty of unethical conduct.

    Every human being should strive for ethical conduct. Companies are run by human beings. Companies have a moral responsibility to behave in an ethical manner regardless of the law.
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    Re: Do businesses have any ethical responsibilities, beyond obeying the law?

    Quote Originally Posted by Goshin View Post
    Businesses, no matter how large, are ultimately composed of individuals. Individuals should always choose to act ethically as well as legally. Therefore, yes.
    Does that include the business as a whole, on a macro scale? I agree with you, on an individual basis, we do need to act ethically, but I'm not sure that would translate to the entire business as well.
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    Re: Do businesses have any ethical responsibilities, beyond obeying the law?

    Quote Originally Posted by repeter View Post
    Does that include the business as a whole, on a macro scale? I agree with you, on an individual basis, we do need to act ethically, but I'm not sure that would translate to the entire business as well.
    In the eyes of the law a business is a legal entity - so that would refer to it as a whole in this sense.
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  4. #24
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    Re: Do businesses have any ethical responsibilities, beyond obeying the law?

    OK, a question for those who say that a business is neglecting its fiduciary responsibilities if it goes above and beyond the law to establish its own code of ethics (say, through corporate social responsibility, or tough self-imposed environmental standards):

    If the shareholders have elected the Board of Directors, which has hired executives who care about social responsibility, isn't that just an expression of the shareholders' wishes? Is it so unfathomable that shareholders might believe "Behaving ethically is more important than maximizing profit"? You are free to invest your money in a less scrupulous company if you feel you aren't getting a good enough rate of return, and allow the people who care about business ethics to lose out on profits. Or alternatively, you're free to elect a new Board of Directors that promises to forsake any ethical responsibilities beyond those necessitated by law or by PR.

    I think it's a myth that corporations should, as a rule, only be concerned about delivering the maximum profit to their shareholders, within the confines of the law. There certainly are companies that behave that way, in which you are free to invest. But don't be upset if you choose to invest your money in a company with a strict code of conduct, since you knew or should have known their policy BEFORE you invested. And if a previously unscrupulous company finds its soul, and that cuts into your profits? Well, that's just a risk you take when you're investing.
    Last edited by Kandahar; 12-26-10 at 10:02 PM.
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    Re: Do businesses have any ethical responsibilities, beyond obeying the law?

    Quote Originally Posted by Kandahar View Post
    OK, a question for those who say that a business is neglecting its fiduciary responsibilities if it goes above and beyond the law to establish its own code of ethics (say, through corporate social responsibility, or tough self-imposed environmental standards):
    Just to be clear, that is not what I was saying. I myself said that businesses don't have a responsibility to do more than the law requires, not that they cannot.
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    Re: Do businesses have any ethical responsibilities, beyond obeying the law?

    Quote Originally Posted by repeter View Post
    Does that include the business as a whole, on a macro scale? I agree with you, on an individual basis, we do need to act ethically, but I'm not sure that would translate to the entire business as well.

    Yup. Somewhere there's a guy or gal with "The Buck Stops Here" on their desk, and that person runs the company, and he should act ethically. Ditto board of directors and stock holders.

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    Re: Do businesses have any ethical responsibilities, beyond obeying the law?

    Quote Originally Posted by Goshin View Post
    Yup. Somewhere there's a guy or gal with "The Buck Stops Here" on their desk, and that person runs the company, and he should act ethically. Ditto board of directors and stock holders.
    I agree, that sorta person should be in every company, but in regards to this thread, are they required to act ethically? Going off your thinking of the individual, the corporation would also have an ethical responsibility to the stockholder to be responsible.
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    Re: Do businesses have any ethical responsibilities, beyond obeying the law?

    Quote Originally Posted by Gardener View Post
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    Re: Do businesses have any ethical responsibilities, beyond obeying the law?

    Quote Originally Posted by repeter View Post
    I agree, that sorta person should be in every company, but in regards to this thread, are they required to act ethically? Going off your thinking of the individual, the corporation would also have an ethical responsibility to the stockholder to be responsible.
    Yes, but what is "being responsible"? Is it just delivering the shareholder the maximum return within the confines of the law? Or is it reflecting the shareholders' wishes, as expressed by the people they elected to be on the Board of Directors? I see no reason to believe that all shareholders care about is the maximum profit. If they did, then there wouldn't be any Johnson & Johnsons who go above and beyond the call of duty; the Board of Directors would be immediately replaced with less scrupulous people.

    There are certain companies that I won't invest in (aside from index/sector funds that invest in groups of stocks) regardless of how undervalued the stock might be. I tend to agree with Warren Buffett, that you can't get a good deal from bad people.
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    Re: Do businesses have any ethical responsibilities, beyond obeying the law?

    Quote Originally Posted by ptif219 View Post
    The problem is they are more concerned about liberal agendas then selling product. I make a choice to try to buy from companies that are concerned with business not social agendas
    "Very conservative" says it all.

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