Business Ethics: Environmental Dimension


Nowadays, the environment tends to be affected by businesses of a different character to a great extent. What is more, not every company demonstrates caring about its environmental duties, which harms the state of affairs of the global community. Various international organizations, initiatives, and responsible citizens aim to contribute to dealing with the mentioned issue. It seems apparent that current severe conditions of competition do not justify the absence of firms’ interest to numerous environmental problems – starting from animal rights and ending with harmful fumes presence. This paper will discuss business ethics within the scope of the environment, as well as provide examples of companies’ practices in this regard.

Duties to the Environment Beyond Law

The effectiveness of socially responsible behavior largely depends on effective government regulation, one of the essential tools of which are incentives. These might be tax benefits for executors of environmentally important projects or compensation for the greening of agricultural production and improving product quality and safety. Such incentives should be clearly enshrined in law, and their effectiveness comes from the transparency and efficiency of the implementation mechanism. However, there is a number of arguments justifying that a business has duties to the environment beyond obeying the law, as well as the ones that against it.

The debate about the role of business in society has given rise to numerous reasons for and against socially responsible corporate behavior in the framework of the environment. A position that does not support the fact that a company should be environmentally friendly without legal regulation might consist of the following. First, there is a visible violation of the principle of maximizing profits. The direction of some resources to environmental needs reduces the influence of the approach of increasing incomes. A firm can behave in an environmentally responsible manner, focusing only on economic interests, but leaving crucial problems with the environment to state institutions and services, as well as to charitable organizations. Second, there are substantial costs for environmental issues; ultimately, these costs are transferred to consumers in the form of price increases.

Third, inadequate reporting to the public might take place; the market system controls well the economic indicators of companies and poorly their environmental responsibility. Plenty of enterprises have the opportunity to disguise their environmentally harmful activities to an exact extent. Until society develops a procedure for direct reporting of companies to it, the latter will not protect the environment for which they do not consider themselves responsible. Finally, there is a lack of ability to solve environmental problems; the staff of any company is best prepared for performance in the fields of economy, market, and technology. They are deprived of an experience that allows making significant contributions to solving issues related to the environment. The environmental improvements should be conducted by specialists working, again, in the relevant state institutions and charitable organizations.

At this point, it seems reasonable to turn to the arguments for environmental responsibility. First, long-term prospects favorable for businesses are created; the environmentally friendly actions of firms improve the life of the local community and eliminate the need for state participation. In a society more prosperous from an environmental perspective, the conditions for business are more favorable. In addition, even if a firm’s short-term costs associated with the support of the environment are high, in the long run, they can stimulate profits, as consumers and suppliers will consider this company more attractive. Second, business-related environmental expectations have changed since the early 60s. To narrow the gap between these expectations and the real response of companies, their involvement in solving problems of the environment becomes both expected and necessary.

Third, there is the apparent availability of resources to assist in solving the mentioned issues. Since businesses have significant human and financial resources, they should transfer some of them to environmental needs. Fourth, a firm has a moral obligation to be environmentally responsible. A company is a member of society; therefore, ethical standards must also govern its behavior. As individual members of a community, companies must act in an environmentally friendly manner and help strengthen the environmental foundations of society. Moreover, since laws cannot cover all aspects of life, firms must proceed from responsible behavior to maintain a community based on order and legality.

It might be rational to claim that the arguments for environmentally responsible businesses are more convincing than the ones against. Today, environmental issues are highlighted among the global priorities of the world community, and many companies are primed to participate in sustainable practices (Bocken, Boons, & Baldassarre, 2019). The recognition that the preservation and improvement of the living environment are necessary conditions for sustainable development and the future of civilization has firmly established itself as an international agenda. No one will deny that the excessive use of fresh water, energy resources, massive deforestation, thoughtless conversion of natural landscapes, and drainage of marshes cause imminent harm to the planet. Then, reduction of forest areas, intensive chemical farming methods, and emissions of pollutants and landfill waste have a devastating effect on the natural environment, leading to irreversible destruction of the biosphere. In order to accurately analyze and evaluate ecological components in various regions of the world, analytical research laboratories equipped with the most modern instruments have been built. Companies should use data from these laboratories to identify many pollutants in water, air, and soil.

Animal Rights

Human is only a small particle of a single whole diversity of the animal world. Each life form on our planet has its own unique role. Many things unite inhabitants of the Earth, and above all – the gift of life. And if any kind of life disappears, people inevitably lose opportunities, beauty, and even the future. The main reason why many species of animals, as well as plants, are on the verge of extinction, is a human business activity. Instead of maintaining the delicate biological balance necessary for survival, firms continue to destroy nature; this causes irreparable damage to the entire animal world. Unfortunately, the activity of people in the technological age has already led to the irreversible extinction of many species, and with it, the loss of invaluable natural wealth.

Therefore, there always has been an urgent need to create a law on the protection of animal rights. However, protecting species in one country, while exterminating in another, makes it impossible to sustain them. Many international agreements that were approved by some countries and turned out to be timely also speak in favor of this. Thanks to global efforts to protect animals, many species have been preserved; still, the population of others has been increased. However, despite the successes achieved, the problem with the protection of animals is exacerbated. It should be stated that the primary efforts were aimed at combating the symptoms and not eliminating the causes themselves.

Hence, making the planet’s biosphere less diverse leads to hindering its essential processes, which may result in a global cataclysm. Animals, being a vital part of this biosphere, must not be threatened to the extent of extinction and companies are to contribute to animal welfare (Molderez & De Landtsheer, 2015). Thus, it might be assumed that this argument fully justifies the need to develop and implement their rights. In another case, firms’ activities related to the issue may lead to environmental disaster as the integral parts of nature will be eliminated.

Example of Harm to the Environment

It should be stated that there is a recent significant example of a firm that has not been environmentally friendly. “Cargill has been on relatively good terms with environmental advocates, praised for agreeing to a landmark moratorium on buying soybeans grown on deforested land in the Amazon rain forest” (Yaffe-Bellany, 2019, para. 1). Nevertheless, its policy has considerably changed, which caused mass disapproval. It results from “the company’s refusal to agree to … moratorium in … environmentally sensitive region of Brazil and … its failure to meet its anti-deforestation targets” (Yaffe-Bellany, 2019, para. 2). Given the analysis above, it seems apparent that the issue of deforestation that results in a broad scope of problems – from soil erosion to climate change – is crucial. Being an integral particle of nowadays processes on Earth, Cargill has to change its policy and attitude backward.


To conclude, ethical aspects of business activities in the framework of the environment were analyzed. It was assumed that companies have convincing reasons to be environmentally friendly beyond obeying the law. Then, the importance of animal rights was discussed, and it was suggested that firms should care about this dimension too. Finally, the harmful deforestation practice of Cargill was presented; it was argued that such behavior is unacceptable.


Bocken, N., Boons, F., & Baldassarre, B. (2019). Sustainable business model experimentation by understanding ecologies of business models. Journal of Cleaner Production, 208, 1498–1512.

Molderez, I., & De Landtsheer, P. (2015). Sustainable fashion and animal welfare: Non-violence as a business strategy. Business, Ethics and Peace, 24, 351–370.

Yaffe-Bellany, D. (2019). From environmental leader to ‘worst company in the world’. The New York Times. Web.

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