Utilitarianism and Golden Rule in Business Ethics

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Both Henry and Clare hold positions which come with business obligations and responsibilities. Henry is ABC Inc.’s marketing manager and Clare is XYZ Inc.’s representative. ABC deals with computer equipments and office supplies in the retail market. XYZ Inc. sells new products to ABC Inc. Henry is responsible for purchasing new products for ABC Inc. from Clare. Clare and Henry are both single parents and do occasionally meet and spend a lot of time together outside work. Henry confides to Clare about the failure of his son’s school to give him prior information about his son’s projects and the requirements for the project.

Due to their relationships, Clare offers to use her position as XYZ Inc.’s representative to give Henry her organisation’s digital camera and a colour printer. Clare clarifies to Henry that she had authority to act in that manner to improve customer relations.



According to Utilitarianism theory, ethical decisions should consider benefits and harms that can affect the society. Positive consequences should prevail over the negative.

Henry accepts the offer from Clare

Each act has some intrinsic good and bad. Clare and Henry have to carefully weigh the consequences of their actions to themselves and their respective companies of work and the moral justification of taking a course of action each chooses (Melden 105). Henry’s dilemma could be solved using the utilitarian theory in decision making. The utilitarian theory combines both Hedonism and consequentialism.

Hedonism draws on the extrinsic good or bad and the resulting pleasure or pain of one’s actions. Consequentialism draws on the consequences of one’s actions. Henry has to evaluate the moral integrity of his decision in accepting or rejecting Clare’s offer and the consequences of his decision. Henry’s action not only could result in pain or pleasure to himself, Clare, the companies they work for, and the business environment as a whole.

Henry’s actions should reflect an upright, fair, and just person (Melden 120). Under this theory, Henry has to critically consider the consequences of his actions and their impact on his job and the company he works for. Besides, this decision can affect the business ethics and business environment as a whole. Taking the colour printer and digital camera may result in greater pleasure for Henry and his son. That could have the possibility of generating distrust on the moral integrity of Henry and Clare. Henry could be viewed with distrust by accepting the offer if it causes pain to Clare such as getting reprimanded, creating a bad image, and damaging the company’s goodwill.

Henry does not accept the offer from Clare

On the other hand, if Henry does not accept the things offered by Clare, she can apply her position to him. In other words, Henry can fail to build good relationships with the partner of the company he works for if he does not accept the present. However, Henry should not accept offer because it will damage the reputation of his company. The concept of business ethics will be damaged if all partners will exchange personal gifts because this is sure to affect the relations between companies and the business related to other partners who are not involved in exchanging gifts. Therefore, not accepting the gift that is offered as utilisation of a professional position but can be treated as friendly gift is the right way to do in this situation.

The Golden rule

According to Melden, the Golden rule lays emphasis on the need for individuals to act with others as they would like others to act with them (100). The reciprocity of this theory focuses on positive and passive forms, prohibitive passive forms, positive active forms, and the silver rule (Koons 1). Fieser argues that this theory is very popular and traverses many cultures of the world (1).

Henry accepts the offer from Clare

If Henry accepts the offer from Clare, this will involve an equal present from him to her or from his company to her company as a result of this gift. On the other hand, Henry should carefully weigh up the kind of relationship between him and Clare and the effect of the choice of the action he should take. Given Henry’s position, Clare is justified to act by giving him the colour printer and the digital camera.

However, Henry should evaluate the fact that if he was in the Clare’s shoes, the moral values attached to his actions and their effects on Clare’s job, himself, and the companies they work for. In other words, if Henry accepts Clare’s gift, this can influence all other relationships between companies and their customers in the business environment in terms of establishment of customer relationships. Thus, al relationships will have to be built up on the bases of exchanging personal gifts.

Henry does not accept the offer from Clare

The golden rule lays emphasis on the reciprocity of actions by either party in an issue. Henry has to evaluate Clare’s actions by carefully identifying and determining if her action is simply reciprocating the business offer between both companies and his good relationship to her. On the other hand, Clare has to carefully evaluate if by doing Henry the act of giving him the digital camera and colour printer, she and others are bound to gain from that act.

Kant’s “categorical imperative”

This theory focuses on the premise that each individual should act in a manner that one’s action becomes a universal law. The deontological theory has its foundation on the morality of duty. This raises the question on the morality of Henry’s and Clare’s actions. Moral duty is innate. The rule imperatives significantly underpin the general form of this theory (Liuzzo 23). The theory emphasises the moral standing of actions.

Henry accepts the offer from Clare

Henry’s action could be moral and in a manner that it becomes universal because it is universally acceptable. However, the benefits he is bound to gain by accepting Clare’s offer has to be carefully evaluated since his act may conflict with other universal values and beliefs. A universal act in this case is one that is acceptable to all and by all. Therefore, Henry’s act of accepting Clare’s offer should be evaluated against the fact of it becoming universally acceptable. A universally accepted act should reflect fairness and justice on the part of both parties in view of the business, climate, industry, organisational, society, and personal levels.

Henry does not accept the offer from Clare

If Henry does not accept the offer made by Clare, this can be accepted as a universal law applicable to any situation. Thus, giving presents cannot be applicable to the sector of business. This means that Henry’s decision about not accepting the offer can be considered applicable for all unlike the decision of accepting it because business relations should not be built on personal gifts. However, careful consideration indicates that this action could look to the public eye as accepting an inducement and not a moral act. This could adversely affect the image of Henry’s company.

Virtue ethics

This theory focuses on virtue as a trait that should be imbued in human beings (Liuzzo 23). The theory focuses on love, social feelings, and the quality of the relationship between people and the moral motivation for taking actions (Fieser 1).

Henry accepts the offer from Clare

Different companies operate on different laws and their employees are bound by different legal requirements. Clare’s decision should also be evaluated for impartiality. Henry can accept the gift only if the company he works for approves this type of improving customer relations with other companies. However, this action can be considered inappropriate in terms of virtue ethics applied to this case, especially if the company acts in accordance with this ethics.

Henry does not accept the offer from Clare

Henry will not gain any benefits if he does not accept the gift, especially if the company’s corporate ethics are based on virtues. However, Henry cannot ask Clare to accept some gifts from him while acting under the virtue ethics because he has refused to accept hers. In this respect, Henry can fail to gain some virtues for the company he works for.


Fieser, James. Business Ethics, n. d. Web.

Koons, Robert C. The Problem of Evil. Preliminaries. The Virtual Office. University of Texas. 2002. Web.

Liuzzo, Anthony. Essentials of Business Law. 7th ed. Harbor Town, New York: Career Education, 2009. Print.

Melden, Abraham I. Ethical Theories. 2nd ed. 1950. New York: Prentice-Hall Inc., 2008. Print.

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