Business Ethics and Social Responsibility in the Workplace

Introduction

Beliefs, which try to define what is right or what is wrong, have emerged in social circles. However, ethical behaviours are observed in individuals’ attitudes towards others. Business ethics concern workers’ behaviour in their workplaces. Essentially, personal ethics concern behaviours that are believed to be good or bad when they affect others. On the other hand, business ethics concern good or bad behaviours, which affect business performance or activity. Nonetheless, it should be noted that business ethics is closely related to personal ethics. For instance, people with ethical behaviours tend to have ethics in business. This paper will explore ethics and social responsibility in workplaces (Ebert & Griffin, 2012).

Explain how individuals develop their personal codes of ethics and why ethics are important in the workplace

Personal code of ethics varies from one person to another. Usually, this happens because of diversity and uniqueness of individuals. While some people draw their personal code of ethics from religion, others draw it from their mentors. In addition, others simply utilise their feelings to dictate how they behave with others. Personal ethics, therefore, vary from one person to another depending on the powers behind it. It should also be noted that some individuals draw personal ethics from more than one source. For instance, one can draw a personal code of ethic from both religion and mentors. On the other hand, one can have as a source of personal ethics certain societal norms and religion. To some extent, individuals may find personal ethics roots in multiple people such as parents, heroes, mentors, teachers and religion, among others. Personal codes of ethics are therefore dependent on the environment from which an individual comes. For instance, it is possible that individuals from Japanese culture vary greatly in personal ethics as compared to those from Europe or the United States.

Japanese draw much of their personal ethics from social culture. In this regard, they always want to please their neighbours. Interestingly, some have brought this into business ethics, which requires utmost integrity. For example, it is quite rare for a Japanese individual to shun his or her neighbour in public. Moreover, it is even more difficult for individuals from Japanese culture to say ‘no’ even when the answer should clearly be a resounding ‘no’. However, cultures in Europe and the United States allow individuals to be honest and straightforward with their partners, clients and friends. This makes it easy for an individual to uphold utmost integrity even in business dealings. Some personal codes of ethics are also gained through experience in workplaces based on previous dealings and the resulting end. In short, personal codes of ethics are drawn from different sources; these include cultures, religions, mentors, teachers, parents, heroes, work places, friends, guidelines given in workplaces and rules, among others (Ebert & Griffin, 2012).

Ethics is important in everyday life since it helps to strengthen cooperation between individuals in a given workplace. In fact, ethics forms the basis of integrity in businesses. Additionally, ethics brings about unity and collective responsibility, which is essential to businesses in achieving their business objectives. Ethical culture in the workplace is essential for a number of reasons. For instance, ethics helps in safeguarding business assets. This is possible since workers who follow the ethics of the organisation tend to revere and defend business properties. For instance, not engaging in private calls using telephones belonging to the organisation would greatly reduce expenditures. Moreover, when strong ethics are practiced in a workplace, employees feel proud of their working environment; this puts them off when it comes to destroying or stealing of company’s properties. This is only possible when mutual respect and dignity are existent between employees and employers. Another advantage drawn from strong ethics is collective work, which is also known as teamwork. Teamwork boosts efficiency of the business.

Ethics in the workplace is instrumental in improving productivity since it brings about teamwork and togetherness among individuals. Moreover, it works to bring into line business and employees’ values. This can be achieved through constant dialogue between workers and the management to help in aligning these values. When dialogue is encouraged, employees become open with the management and alignment of values is easily achieved. This goes on to increasing the teamwork and integrity among the workers. This raises enthusiasm and hence improved output. The next importance brought about by ethics in the workplace is a strong public image. Businesses that make choices that are considered ethical cultivate a strong public image, as well as commendable respect from all stakeholders.

Good corporate social responsibility is, therefore, important in cultivating a strong public image. For instance, providing free or cheap water to the community would greatly improve business image. A strong image is essential in attracting more clients for increased sales for the business. It is also necessary to note that good ethics in the workplace helps the business to make decisions based on ethical values. This improves transparency, as well as accountability, which are strategic values of any company. Moreover, the company or business with good ethical values has an edge over others when it comes to resolving conflicts or when the company is in turbulent times. Decision making in the company is greatly enhanced and this helps in improving consistency as well as acceptance of changes within the organisation (Ebert & Griffin, 2012).

Distinguish social responsibility from ethics, identify organizational stakeholders, and characterize social consciousness today

Most companies usually define social responsibility in their corporate social responsibility policies. On the other hand, ethics is loosely defined in most companies since it depends on people’s conscience. From its definition, ethics refers to beliefs on rights and wrongs, which are likely to affect others. In business environment, ethics concern employees on tasks within their occupation. Social responsibility, on the other hand, refers to the general manner in which a business responds to its social environment. This includes a business’s commitment to communities, individuals and groups around it. To this extent, it is obvious that social responsibility is different from ethics. For instance, a policy on corporate social responsibility can be ethical or unethical. Additionally, social responsibility is not mandatory especially in small businesses, which may not afford it. However, ethics is a requirement since it cannot be avoided, that is; it can either be good or bad, strong or weak, but must be observed in businesses, whether large or small.

For instance, even though companies may have good social responsibility, it may not have good ethical behaviour. This shows that social responsibility differs from ethics. Such differences arise from the fact that at times things can be favourable to the organisation unlike society and vice versa. These forces businesses to make decisions that may favour ethics or social responsibility based on their needs. Businesses are usually obliged to act sensibly whenever the public is cognisant. For instance, promoting the sale of illegal drugs or drugs that affect human health is strongly objected to by the society and is therefore, considered to oppose social responsibility yet it seems to be in the interest of business morals. This also shows the difference between ethics and social responsibility. Furthermore, gambling and lotteries are usually in the interest of business ethics, yet they are, at the same time, against social responsibility. Nonetheless, it can be noted that both social responsibility and ethics shun selling liquor or cigarettes to minors (Ebert & Griffin, 2012).

Organisational stakeholders refer to groups, organisations or individuals who are affected by the activities of the business directly. Organisational stakeholders are therefore considered to hold stakes in the running of the business. Organisational stakeholders include employees, investors, suppliers, customers, local communities and business organisations. Organisations consider customers as their prime targets in business. Businesses with many customers tend to record instant growth and sustainability. In this regard, the business must focus its social consciousness on customers by transacting business in a fair and honest manner. Treatment of customers has also gained popularity among business organisations.

Businesses have opened customer care centres, which try to show their commitment to customers as their main stakeholders. Employees are also considered as major players in business. Without the employees, business cannot sell or make products for sale to consumers. Businesses show consciousness towards employees by taking good care of them and by regarding their fundamental requirements. This improves their dignity at work. Most companies have laid out structures, which are aimed at improving working environment for their employees. Additionally, businesses today have worked to improve provision of needs of employees such as leaves, overtime and rewards.(Cadbury Schweppes, 2014).

Other organisational stakeholders include investors who provide capital for production of business products. Investors demand accountability and transparency in accounting procedures as well as financial performance of companies they own. Most companies nowadays provide up-to-date financial information to their shareholders as a way of improving their integrity. Suppliers also form an integral part of business stakeholders since they provide them with raw materials for production. Organisations have strategies aimed at promoting mutual partnership with suppliers to enhance cooperation. Local as well as international communities are also essential part of businesses since they give them a positive image.

Businesses try to engage such communities in charitable events. Organisations are increasingly implementing societal business practices. In essence, although companies are in existence to please shareholders by making profit, business CSR (corporate social responsibility) has given businesses a platform to enshrine ethics into their activities. That is, companies are embracing CSR. In essence, businesses are becoming more conscious of their surroundings. Moreover, accountability has emerged as the driving force of social consciousness in the contemporary world. Most businesses want to be considered accountable to the general welfare and protection of their environment or society (Ebert & Griffin, 2012).

Show how the concept of social responsibility applies both to environmental issues and to a firm’s relationships with customers, employees, and investors

Most companies have policies on social responsibility. Social responsibility defines the way a business approaches different groups or individuals in its business social environment. In essence, a business’s commitment to a given groups of stakeholders can vary from place to place. However, social responsibility applies mainly to the main organisational stakeholders mentioned above. Social responsibility applies to the environment through mitigation of air pollution, mitigation of water pollution and reduction of land pollution. Businesses strengthen their commitment to environmental protection through activities such as community awareness, safe disposal of wastes and recycling where practicable.

This can be done through green marketing, which includes sustainability through use of renewable resources, packaging reduction, carbon offsets, production processes and production modification. Companies such as General electric, among others, have increased efficiency in utilisation of energy to show their responsibility towards environmental conservation. Businesses also show social responsibility towards consumers by promoting consumer rights or consumerism. In addition, social responsibility applies to customers through ensuring correct pricing by reducing on collusion and price gouging (Cadbury Schweppes, 2014).

The concept of social responsibility also applies to the business’s relationship with employees in firms that try to provide their employees with equal opportunities without discrimination in terms of sex and race in order to meet both social and legal responsibilities. The firms also help employees to stabilise issues concerning personal as well as workplace challenges. Additionally, businesses work to ensure that employees improve or maintain their job skills. Other ways of applying social responsibility towards workers include showing of compassion and respect for laid-off workers. Corporate social responsibility also applies to investors. This can be done by showing integrity and honesty to the investors. Firms are required to commit to accountability to enhance credibility and confidence from investors. Additionally, firms are required to shun from activities such as misinterpretation of finances as well as inside trading. CRS is therefore, applicable to all the major stakeholders in an organisation (Ebert & Griffin, 2012).

Identify four general approaches to social responsibility and describe the four steps that a firm must take to implement a social responsibility program

The four main approaches to CRS include obstructionist stance, defensive stance, accommodative stance and proactive stance. The first stance is considered as the lowest possible level of CSR while the last stance is considered as the highest possible stance. Businesses, which are passionate about social responsibility usually, operate between accommodative and proactive stances while businesses that are less passionate to social responsibility oscillate between defensive and obstructionist stances. The first stance (obstructionist) happens when businesses do very little to cover up or deny violations of legal requirements of social responsibility.

This can be towards consumers, environment and employees, among others. However, defensive stance arises when businesses only follow the least possible requirements of social responsibility. Nonetheless, accommodative stance occurs when a company that is requested to exceed legal requirements of social responsibilities does so. Elsewhere, proactive stance applies to companies that seek to exceed legal requirements of social responsibility (Ebert & Griffin, 2012).

Companies can implement social responsibility programs through numerous ways. However, some of the main important ones include commitment from the top management, development of a detailed plan, giving power to the plan by putting an executive official in charge and through conducting of social responsibility audits. The first step towards implementing a social responsibility program is through inclusion of social responsibility in the company’s strategic planning. This would promote identification of social responsibility as a core function of the company.

Additionally, it would assist in recognising the company’s efforts towards improving their social consciousness. In essence, social responsibility as a factor must begin at the top in any organisation. Secondly, considerations should be made to develop a plan, which goes with social responsibility. A team of executives ought to come up with this plan. Additionally, the managers should define the amount of resources they plan to give to social responsibility. This is important in expressing the level of seriousness showed by top management in seeking corporate social responsibility (Crowther, 2000, p. 20).

Moreover, the third step involves establishing an office or department for social responsibility. This can be done by putting an executive to work directly towards promoting social responsibility’s agenda. By putting an executive in charge, company is showing its support and commitment to social responsibility. In addition, company is giving evidence of ability to provide resources capable of responding to the needs of social responsibility agenda.

Lastly, the organisation’s fourth step should be to conduct occasional audits on social responsibility activities. This is important in providing the company with adequate information on the progress and impacts of social responsibility. Moreover, it opens the company up to challenges of social responsibility and ways of mitigating them. In addition, it helps in evaluating the company’s image before and after the initiation of social responsibility. In essence, companies should give power to social responsibility.

Explain how issues of social responsibility and ethics affect small business

Social responsibility can be quite expensive. In fact, social responsibility requires huge investment for a company to implement its requirements. In this regard, its use in small businesses has been reduced to personal ethics. Interaction between an individual owning a business and their customers is therefore very essential in cementing a good working relationship. Ethics is therefore quite predominant in small businesses as opposed to large businesses where it is rarely observed. However, when it comes to social responsibility, business owners must consider availability of funds to support a social agenda.

This is usually difficult; in some cases business borrow parts of social responsibility agenda from big companies to apply them partially. For instance, a small business may decide to focus on two or three organisational stakeholders that are significant to his/her business when seeking a social responsibility agenda. This may include employees, environment and customers. However, small businesses would give priority to customers since their focus is to increase sales. This can at times lead to small business ignoring other stakeholders. However, small businesses’ focus on social responsibility relies heavily on the amount of fund available, if any, for social agenda.

Conclusion

Ethics concern individual behaviour towards others. Ethical behaviours are set of behaviours that are considered good while unethical behaviours are those behaviours that are considered bad. Business ethics concerns employees as well as their duties in place of work. Social responsibility on the other hand is about commitment of businesses or organisations to various groups of stakeholders. Ethics and social responsibility overlap in some areas while they differ in other areas. For instance, a company that plants trees to mitigate global warming does both social responsibility to the society and ethical action. On the other hand, a company that sells cigarettes follows its business ethics but tramps on social responsibility. However, both ethics and social responsibility are significant for organisations since it enhances teamwork and hence productivity.

References

Cadbury Schweppes (2014). Ethical business practices: A Cadbury Schweppes case study. Web.

Crowther, D. (2000). Social and Environmental Accounting. London: Financial Times Prentice Hall.

Ebert, R. & Griffin, W. (2012). Business Essentials: Business ethics and Social responsibility (9th ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.