Business ethics or corporate ethics can be defined as ethical principles and moral challenges in a business environment (Goodpaster, 2002). It applies to all aspects of business conduct and professions. It is equally relevant to individuals just as it is to an organization. Business ethics address a wide range of concerns. One of the objectives of studying business ethics is to understand the fundamental purposes of organizations (Gartner and Birley, 2002). Business ethics address corporate social responsibilities, the moral rights of a company, and its duties towards its stakeholders. It also addresses leadership issues, the political involvement of businesses, law reforms, and the use or misuse of different corporate ethical policies. Every area of a business has its ethics(Ghauru and Kjell, 2002). There are ethics of finance, ethics of sales and marketing, ethics of property and property rights, ethics of technology, ethics of human resource, ethics of international business, and ethics of production just to mention a few (Gill, Phil, and Murray, 2010).
“Business ethics means more than being in line with law and regulations” (Gummesson, 2000). Unfortunately, many organizations assume that business ethics means not breaking the law, avoiding any actions which may result in a lawsuit, or ensuring one does not engage in any action which might taint the image of a business (Gustafsson, Andreas, and Huber, 2003). Many businesses and business people are most concerned about the three factors since they cost the company money if they happened. These are however not the only concerns for business ethics. Business ethics is about ensuring that the three outcomes are avoided and making sure there is openness and genuineness in the way it is done (Kaluzny, 2004).
From past research projects by different organizations and individuals, it is clear that unethical behaviors and misconduct in an organization arise mostly from the way a company relates with its employees and the way it makes financial decisions (Karafai, 2000).
The most famous types of misconduct observed include abusive behaviors towards employees, lying to customers and the public, withholding important information to employees and other stakeholders, discriminating based on age, race, gender, and other factors, theft, sexual harassment, falsified financial records and corruption, and inappropriate political involvement (Kumar, 2005).
Ethical issues can be categorized into several categories. “They can be categorized into a conflict of interest, fairness, and honesty, communications, and business relationships” (Lancaster, 2008). Conflict of interest arises when an individual decides to consider their interests rather than considering the good of the business or when a business chooses to consider their interest without any regard to the interests of employees and other stakeholders. “Fairness and honesty, which is considered the heart of every business, measures the general values of decision-makers in the business” (Lindfelt, 2006). Communication on the other hand is more concerned with how true or misleading advertisements and other sources of information are (Stoerger, 2002.). Business ethics call for relations that are ethical towards suppliers, customers, and other stakeholders.
The article “making sense of business ethics” by Lindlfelt looks at how different businesses handle issues concerning ethical behavior at work. The author argues that there are several guidelines and considerations which determine whether a decision is ethical or not (Trevino and Katherine, 2011). The author argues that an ethical decision should not have potential legal violations (Oderoq, 2007). It should not break the law and should be in line with the company’s regulations. The second argument is that for an action to be ethical, then consideration should be whether the company has any code of ethics on the action. This should help answer the question of whether one is going against the employee’s handbook. “An ethical decision should not be out of the industry’s customary and it should not violate any trade practices” (Orlokowski and Baroudi, 1991). It should be acceptable amongst one’s co-workers and should there be a discussion regarding it by managers and co-workers, it should still stand untarnished. Perhaps the most important consideration when judging a decision’s ethical value is whether it fits in the decision maker’s beliefs and values (Saunders, Philip, and Adrian, 2009). A decision must not violate the decision maker’s religious beliefs, social values, or personal ethics (Shaw, 2011).
“Business ethics are influenced by individual values and standards, codes and compliance requirements, managers’, and co-workers’ behaviors” (Savenye and Rhonda, 2004). Stakeholders also play a big role in a business’ level of business ethics (Sanchez, 2008). Some businesses have demonstrated considerable effort in maintaining high levels of business ethics in most of their areas of operations while some have failed. However, many businesses today fall short of perfection by paying little attention to important areas of concern such as the environment (Wayan, 2010). From the article, it is also clear that organizations that hold business ethics highly enjoy a high level of commitment from employees and there is a high level of trust amongst employees towards their seniors.
The paper clearly defines business ethics and explains its application in different areas of business. It explains the importance of ethical awareness and management and its use as a network strategy. The author also points out the different drivers of business ethics and their application in globalized markets. Trust, accuracy, and organizational sense-making are some of the important elements that have to be in place to set a foundation for professional ethics. “Understanding business markets, interaction, relationships, and networks are some of the important elements of business ethics” (Ford, 1998).
The paper explains the application of business ethics in different areas. The business’ code of ethics regarding employment clearly states that employees will not be fired without being provided with a good reason and those employees’ rights will be protected equally. Since respect, trust and loyalty are expected from employees, businesses must ensure that they stay committed to their responsibilities towards them. In marketing, business ethics has raised a lot of controversy over how much information sales and marketing people should ethically disclose to customers and other concerned parties. It however requires that business must not use their position to disadvantage their customers. The same case applies to new technologies. When it comes to the environment, business ethics require that businesses take care of their surrounding with care.
The paper’s strengths include the fact that it is well elaborate. It also brings to light the different areas in which businesses have neglected their responsibilities in implementing business ethics. The paper’s weaknesses include the fact that it covers a wide range of information under one topic and uses too much business jargon that may be hard to understand.
Business ethics refers to ethical principles and moral challenges in a business environment (Taylor, 2006). It applies to all aspects of business conduct and decisions. Business ethics is more than abiding by the rules and is more about being responsible to employees, consumers, and all other stakeholders (Trevino and Gary, 2003). This paper studies the applicability of business ethics in different business environments and uses Sharjah Islamic Bank as a case study. The paper studies how the bank applies business ethics in the way it treats employees, how they handle information and how truthful they are to consumers in their marketing practices. The paper also studies the bank’s financial and auditing practices and how business ethics are adhered to in them. Business ethics address how companies use new technology and whether they misuse such inventions to exploit customers, an issue that is addressed in Sharjah Islamic Bank. Finally, the paper studies the bank’s responsibility towards the environment and how much they input into it.
Business ethics or corporate ethics can be defined as ethical principles and moral challenges in a business environment (Aldred, 1997). It applies to all aspects of business conduct and all professions and is equally relevant to individuals just as it is to an organization. Business ethics address a wide range of concerns. One of the objectives of studying business ethics is to understand the fundamental purposes of organizations (Anderson and Narus, 1999). Business ethics address corporate social responsibilities, the moral rights of a company, and its duties towards its stakeholders. It also addresses leadership issues, the political involvement of businesses, law reforms, and the use or misuse of different corporate ethical policies. Every area of a business has its ethics(Armitage and Diane, 2003). There are ethics of finance, ethics of sales and marketing, ethics of property and property rights, ethics of technology, ethics of human resource, ethics of international business, and ethics of production just to mention a few (Arrow, 1999).
This paper researches business ethics in the banking industry, using Sharjah Islamic Bank (SIB) as a case study. The paper will examine the bank’s practices regarding how it treats its employees, employment terms and conditions, and benefits as they work for the bank. The paper will study SIB’s marketing and disclosure of information policies and how this affects customers’ ability to make decisions. Finance and accounting practices are a big factor when judging the bank’s commitment to ethics. This paper will seek to understand how the bank’s finance and accounting practices support or hinder the customers’ ability to make informed choices. Emerging technologies can either be used to empower or disadvantage customers, by enabling the bank to use the information to their advantage. The paper will examine how this has been for SIB. Finally, the paper will examine the bank’s commitment to its environmental and other community responsibilities.
In Wienen’s book, very specific questions are raised over the role of business ethics in businesses and how much these roles are defined or affected by religion. The United Arab Emirate is a region whose governing principles are governed by Islam beliefs and traditions. As a result, even businesses are supposed to align their policies and practices with what is acceptable by the Islam religion. For example, the Muslim religion calls for fair treatment of everyone and social responsibility upon those who are more able than others. Employees’ treatment is relatively fair in this region as a result of religious obligations. Many businesses in the region are supposed to treat their employees fairly by paying them well, allowing their leaves, and giving them enough time off for religious practices. The book studies how businesses such as Sharjah Islamic Bank treat their employees and customer and what more can be done.
Abdelsalam researches on Islamic Banking in the United Arab Emirates. This report highlights different bank practices in the United Arabs
Emirates. The study focuses on their auditing and financial practices. It also discusses how much information customers have and how this affects the banks’ powers over them. The author argues how the role of financial information in empowering bank customers to make the right decisions regarding investments, loans, and savings. Bank’s financial practices and how they influence business ethics are also addressed by the author. According to the author, transparency is a key challenge for customers, since banks are not willing to reveal as much information as would be adequate for customers. There is also the issue of other responsibilities that the banks in the region should take seriously such as environmental responsibilities, which banks in the United Arab Emirates have neglected. The author notes that many banks in this region and other businesses are more aligned to sporting activities and other commercial activities, and pay very little attention to social and environmental concerns.
Tahir focuses on the marketing strategies of the banking industry and what business ethics call for in marketing. Business ethics call for enough information to allow consumers to make informed decisions regarding products. In the the banking industry, the author faults banks for withholding information over different products subjecting consumers to expenses they were not prepared for. A good an example is the different bank rates and hidden charges when customers are taking loans or allowing the bank to invest on their behalf. According to the author, the the banking industry in the United Arab Emirates and the Islamic way of banking is relatively open in terms of information compared to other banking systems in the world.
In their report, Oxford Business Group examines Abu Dhabi’s banking industry and how technology has influenced the region. According to the report, technology has made it easier to manage data and information, share information among banks and serve customers better. The report however notes that in some cases, technology has been used to scale down the amount of information available to customers, putting them in a disadvantaged position. Even though banks justify their information collection activities by arguing that it helps them make better business decisions, the process should be regulated to ensure that only required information is collected.
Business Ethics in Sharjah Islamic Bank
“Sharjah Islamic Bank is an Islamic bank founded in 1976 and fully converted to a Shariah-compliant bank in 2004” (Sharjah Islamic Bank, 2009). Its headquarters are located in the United Arab Emirate. It has over 22 branches throughout the United Arabs Emirates, a growth supported by the growing levels of travel and shopping business in the region. The bank, being a Shariah-compliant bank ensures that its services and products are shaped by religious beliefs and morals. They are also designed in such a way that they meet the social requirements of the majority of its client. Among its corporate values are fairness, initiative, reciprocity, simplicity, and trust. The bank places utmost importance on people just as they uphold self-respect and fairness.
When studying business ethics in any organization such as SIB, it is important to consider the principles and standards which define acceptable conduct in that particular business (Attaran, 2003). “The business’ discipline towards its social responsibilities is determined by their obligation to maximize their positive impact on society and minimize any negative impacts which may arise from their business decisions” (Baldera, 2002). This is also determined by the organization’s ability to recognize an ethical issue and identify ethical problems when they arise. It is then after identification that a business can choose a solution from among the available solutions, which can be categorized as unethical, wrong, right, and most desirable ethical (Wienen, 2000).
SIB’s Treatment of Employees
The company has well-established employee policies which ensure that its employees are heard and treated as assets. SIB’s employee philosophy is that they are the business’s biggest assets. The company puts a lot of emphasis on attracting, recruiting, retaining, and motivating highly talented employees (Balasurbamanian and Wagner, 2009). The company goes further and provides for its associates a nurturing and caring environment to solicit the best performance from them. The business places high importance on its nationals and clearly states that they are an important element of their workforce. The bank has put in place well-planned initiatives and career advancement programs to ensure that their employee’s quest for excellence and growth are taken care of.
The business’ code of ethics regarding employment clearly states that employees will not be fired without being provided with a good reason and those employees’ rights will be protected equally. Since respect, trust and loyalty are expected from employees, the business has ensured that it has entailed reciprocal obligations. The company also provides in its rules that employees have a right to be protected from arbitrary power held by the management (Oxford Business Group, 2008). It is due to its employment ethics and high level of professionalism in the way they treat employees that the bank has received numerous awards from different organizations. “The Bank was awarded the Human Resource Award for the financial sector in 2003, 2005 and 2006 by the Emirates Institute for Banking and Financial studies” (Malachowski, 2009).
Discrimination and harassment are completely prohibited at the workplace and this is done by eliminating the vestiges of discrimination from the business (Marschan and Catherine, 2004). Hiring and promotion are done strictly based on qualifications and performance, an element that lacks in many businesses today (Masdonati, 2007). Lending, housing, and other benefits are done based on very professional standards and are not based on personality or other individual factors. In the past, the bank has been accused of exercising discrimination based on religion and race, claims which it has since denied. However, religion plays a big role in business decisions, something which many critics would not agree with (Maylor and Kathryn, 2008).
Marketing and Disclosure of Information
There has been a major transition in the way Islamic financial institutions do their marketing. The new model of banking is now acceptable in many regions around the world and competition seems to be very high in the Islamic banking industry. Business ethics in marketing has raised a lot of controversy over how much information sales and marketing people should ethically disclose to customers and stakeholders. SIB’s policy in marketing holds that the buyer is solely responsible for the decisions they make. The bank holds that the business should disclose minimum information to the buyers. It also states that stakeholders should only be allowed to modify as little information as possible to avoid the risk of injury (Tahir 28).
Fairness rules in the company’s information disclosure policy. Any business must ensure its protection when disclosing information and should ensure it protects its customers in the process by ensuring they have enough information required to make decisions (Neergaard and John, 2008). Every business must observe the mutual benefit rule which requires that there should be enough information for interested parties to make reasonable judgments (Biklen, 2007). The rule also allows salespeople to meet their ethical obligations by providing enough information for customers to make a decision and ensuring that they uphold the company’s privacy (Bogdan, 2007).
The business also ensures that it upholds market competency rules by ensuring that its marketing skills are not intentionally supposed to create an unfair environment in the market. Its customers have the freedom to shop around for other service providers; they know the products the bank offers and have legal rights against the institution (Sharjah Islamic Bank, 2009). The bank does not deny its customers the ability to protect their interests and are ensure they are not put at vulnerable levels which might expose them to harm. It is morally unacceptable for any business to take advantage of the customers’ vulnerability of lack of information regarding a certain product (McNamara, 2009).
Finance and Accounting
SIB can be considered a very secretive institution when it comes to information regarding finances and accounting. Information regarding accounting and finance is only acceptable to the bank’s management, relevant personnel in the bank, and shareholders (Vernman, 2009). However, by examining the company’s past books of records, it is clear that the bank’s financial reports are prepared professionally under the generally accepted accounting principles (Chamelek, 2009). Auditors of the bank have specific roles and responsibilities included in the company’s codes of ethics regarding its financial data (Bryman, 2007). They are required to have a sufficient understanding of the bank’s internal control structure (Brunel, 2010). As required by business ethics, the bank takes auditing very seriously to ensure that its shareholders are well informed of all financial activities and decisions in the business (Chamelek, 2009).
Part of the business measures to observe proper ethics in this area is auditor’s independence (Cooper and Schindler, 2008). Auditors of the bank are free from pressure and any other factors which may influence the outcome of their findings. The bank has an established course of action in an event where someone is reasonably suspected of compromising the auditor’s ability to give unbiased results. The auditors have the responsibility of establishing whether the level of independence in any institution is acceptable or employees are coerced to make unethical financial decisions (Crane and Dirk, 2007). Resolving financial conflicts in a business is a big factor in whether business ethics are observed in a business or not (Messick, 2000).
Business ethics regarding emerging technologies calls for use of new technology in a way that does not put a consumer in a disadvantaged position (Cory, 2001). Technology should not be used to scale down the amount of information available to customers and should not change the type of information available to them either (Smart, 2008). The scale of exchange of information should only be changed to a level that is acceptable between the business, customers, and all stakeholders whose interests would be influenced by the change of technology (Dawson, 2002).
Ethical Issues Regarding the Environment
Environmental ethics require that businesses are obligated to protect the environment and minimize negative effects to it (Elliot and Judy, 2005). Businesses are not supposed to oppress or oppose environmental legislation (Frederick, 2002). Every business has the responsibility of protecting the environment as well as educating its customers about environmentally responsible choices. Like many other banks in the United Arabs Emirates, SIB has been accused of paying little attention to environmental projects and not partnering with any environmental organizations in the region (Abdelsalam, 2010). Through one of her research papers, Dr. Abdelsalam has accused the banking industry in the region of showing very little interest in projects that benefit the environment and instead focusing and giving too much attention to projects which have the potential to improve their profitability such as real estate which is picking up well in the region.
To understand employees’ commitment and trust towards the company, a survey was conducted on 20 employees. The survey was conducted on 12 men and 8 women to ensure a gender-balanced opinion. Four of the employees surveyed are at the senior management level, ten were managers at the branch levels, three were tellers, while the rest were regular employees such as customer care attendants, serving employees each day. Nine of the employees have been working with the bank for more than ten years, three had been employees for more than fives years, four had been in the bank for over a year and the rest had just joined the bank a few months ago. Three-quarters of the employees surveyed were above 35 years of age, while the remaining number were between 27 and 35 years. Such a distribution allowed the survey to understand the relationship between an employee’s loyalty to the bank and the number of years they have been in the bank.
Organizational commitment survey
To establish the level of employee’s commitment and trust towards the company, the survey conducted on 20 employees can be summarized as follows
|Organizational commitment Questionnaire|
|Employee organizational commitment|
|I am willing to put in a great deal of effort beyond that normally expected for the good of the organization.||86.67%|
|I talk about this organization to my friends as a great organization to work for||73.30%|
|I would accept almost any type of job assignment in order to keep working for this company||46.70%|
|I find that my values and the organization’s values are very similar||86.67%|
|I am proud to tell others that I am part of this bank||73.30%|
|This organization really inspires the very best in me in the way of job performance||80.00%|
|I am extremely glad that I chose this organization to work for over others I was considering at the time I joined.||80.00%|
|I really care about the perfoemance of this organization||86.67%|
|For me this is the best of all possible organizations for which to work||73.30%|
|If I had my way, I wouldn’t let my superior have any influence over issues that affect me.||46.70%|
|I would be willing to let my superior have complete control over my future in this company.||60.00%|
|I really wish I had a good way to keep an eye on my superior.||33.30%|
|I would be comfortable giving my superior a task or problem which was critical to me, even if I could not monitor their actions||73.30%|
There are several guidelines and considerations which determine whether a decision is ethical or not (Trevino and Katherine, 2011). An ethical decision should not have potential legal violations (Oderoq, 2007). It should not break the law and should be in line with the company’s regulations. The second consideration should be whether the company has any code of ethics on the action. This should help answer the question of whether one is going against the employee’s handbook. An ethical decision should not be out of the industry’s customary and should not violate any trade practices (Orlokowski and Baroudi, 1991). It should be acceptable amongst one’s co-workers and should there be a discussion regarding it by managers and co-workers, it should still stand untarnished. Perhaps the most important consideration when judging a decision’s ethical value is whether it fits in the decision maker’s beliefs and values (Saunders, Philip, and Adrian, 2009). A decision must not violate the decision maker’s religious beliefs, social values, or personal ethics (Shaw, 2011).
“Business ethics are influenced by individual values and standards, codes and compliance requirements, managers’, and co-workers’ behaviors” (Savenye and Rhonda, 2004). Stakeholders also play a big role in a business’ level of business ethics (Sanchez, 2008). SIB is a bank that has demonstrated considerable effort in maintaining high levels of business ethics in most of its areas of operations. “It however falls short of perfection by paying little attention to important areas of concern such as the environment” (Wayan, 2010). From the survey, it is also clear that the bank enjoys a high level of commitment from employees and there is a high level of trust amongst employees towards their seniors.
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