Discussion on ethics in business is necessary because business can become unethical, and there are plenty of evidences today on unethical corporate practices. Even Adam Smith opined that "People of the same trade seldom meet together, even for merriment and diversion, but the conversation ends in a conspiracy against the public, or in some contrivance to raise prices." Firms and corporations operate in the social and natural environment. By virtue of existing in such environments, business is duty bound to be accountable to the natural and social environment in which it survives. Irrespective of the demands and pressures upon it, business by virtue of its existence is bound to be ethical,[Is this a fact or an opinion?] for at least two reasons: one, because whatever the business does affects its stakeholders and two, because every juncture of action has trajectories of ethical as well as unethical paths, wherein the existence of the business is justified by ethical alternatives it responsibly chooses.[please rephrase] One of the conditions that brought business ethics to the forefront is the demise of small scale, high trust and face-to-face enterprises, and emergence of huge multinational corporate structures capable of drastically affecting everyday lives of the masses.
Individual Ethical Decision-Making Styles
Stanley Krolick identifies four individual ethical decision-making styles. The first is the individualist and this decision maker is driven by natural reason, personal survival, and preservation. The self is the only criteria involved in decisions for this style while ignoring other stakeholders. The second style is altruists who are primarily concerned for others. This approach is almost opposite to that of the individualist. Altruists will disregard their own personal security for the benefit of others. The primary mission of altruists is to generate the greatest amount of good for the largest number of people. The third style is pragmatists, who are concerned with current situations and not with the self or others. It is facts and the current situation that guide this decision maker's decision. The fourth and final style is the idealist who is driven by principles and rules. It is values and rules of conduct that determine the behaviors exhibited by idealists. Idealists display high moral standards and tend to be rigid in their approach to ethical situations.
When communicating with an individualist, one should emphasize the benefits to the other person's self-interest. When communicating with an altruist, one should emphasize the benefits to all stakeholders involved. When communicating with a pragmatist, one should highlight the facts and possible effects of actions. When communicating with an idealist, one should focus on the duties and principles involved.
History of ethics in business
Business ethics, being part of the larger social ethics, has always been affected by the ethics of the epoch. At different epochs of the world, people, especially the elites of the world, were blind to ethics and morality which were obviously unethical to the succeeding epoch. History of business, thus, is tainted by and through the history of slavery, history of colonialism, and later by the history of the cold war. The current discourse of business ethics is the ethical discourse of the post-colonialism and post-world wars. The need for business ethics in the current epoch began gaining attention since the 1970s. Historically, firms started highlighting their ethical stature since the late 1980s and early 1990s, as the world witnessed serious economic and natural disasters because of unethical business practices. The Bhopal disaster and the fall of Enron are instances of major disasters triggered by bad corporate ethics. It should be noted that the idea of business ethics caught the attention of academics, media and business firms by the end of the overt Cold War. Cold wars, seen through pages of history, were fought through and fought for American business firms abroad. Ideologically, promotion of firms owned by American nationals were presented as if they represented freedom, and local resistance against the excess of American firms were labeled as communist upraising sponsored by the Soviet Block. Further, even legitimate criticism against unethical practice of firms was presented as if it were infringement into the "freedom" of the entrepreneurs by activists backed by communist totalitarians This scuttled the discourse of business ethics both in media and academia. Overt violence by business firms has decreased to a great extent in the democratic and media affluent world of the day, though it has not ceased to exist. The war in Iraq is one recent examples of overt violence by corporations.[Is this a fact or an opinion?]