Business Ethics Resource Guide

Business ethics are an integral part of learning about business no matter what school you go to: Colorado Technical University, American InterContinental University, Capella University, George Washington University, Liberty University. While the pursuit of money anchors the free enterprise system, ethical capitalism doesn’t mean businesses should recklessly pursue profit by any means – unless they want to lose consumer confidence and face government sanctions up to and including jail time. Many businesses strive to create a corporate culture where ethics are emphasized. This not only protects customers and the public, but it also preserves the company’s reputation and the perceived quality of their goods and services. Bribes, money laundering, insider trading, fraud, and misrepresentation are a few of the immoral acts which ethical companies strive to avoid.

The term “business ethics” became popularized in contemporary America in the 1970s by academia and corporate experts looking to respond to high-profile scandals. Many companies shape their ethics standards by their motivations to achieve profit. Others base company ethics code on what is legal or illegal. Still, other businesses embrace a universal or spiritual system of ethics.

Accounting ethics
Ethics for accounting and financial professionals cover a range of topics from investing for clients to taking fees to tax filing issues. Many consumers have clamored for increased morality in accounting after several Wall Street scandals have resulted in citizens losing life savings and investments. Most academic institutions require a series of ethics courses before handing out an accounting degree. This is seen by some as a controversial practice.

HR ethics
Human resource departments set ethical values and standards for how employees interact with each other, stakeholders, and the public. HR ethics govern social responsibility. They often guide employees in how to be benevolent civic citizens. Issues like dating coworkers or clients and smoking or drinking on the job can become pressing ethics issues for some HR departments.

Intellectual property
Intellectual property ethics involves the moral handling of artistic property and any property mentally created and often lacking physical expression. Such works are usually protected by trademarks and copyright laws. As it relates to business, inventions, processes, and new discoveries are all considered forms of intellectual property that are under protection. Most companies require employees to guard intellectual creations not only during their time of employment but after separating from the company – especially if they go to work for a rival.

Insider Trading
Using personal and business contacts for market information that is not being made available to the general public is considered insider trading. It is an illegal practice that can net jail time, particularly for the person who profits. The term generally refers to the act of purchasing or unloading stock based on inside tips. Both the Senate and the House of Representatives have standing rules against such financial practices.

Computer Ethics
In an age of shared servers, remote access and hacking, cyberethics has become a major concern for businesses. Companies most create standards for maintain private company and customer data. That means controlling passwords and access to sensitive accounts. It also means restricting how a business’s network can be used to harm, infiltrate, and intercept other companies.

International business ethics
Many companies focus exclusively on local ethics. Market experts say, however, that concentrating on global ethics is necessary for every business. Technology allows even small businesses to enjoy a global market, making global reputation susceptible to how consumers around the world perceive a company’s moral practices. Paying for international contracts and shortchanging international labor are among the issues ethicists study when it comes to international corporate ethics.

Ethics of Sales and marketing
Those who advertise and sell services and products are prohibited from attempted to delude consumers. Price fixing and conning customers by baiting them with one product but delivering another are illegal and immoral practices. Pyramid scams, which have become more sophisticated with the growth of technology and the anonymity of the Internet, can lead to extensive criminal and civil penalties.  The realm of marketing ethics covers everything from whether business people can buy and receive gifts from clients to what marketers can say about rival companies.

Ethics with competition
Some professionals believe following an ethical code when trying to outwit and out-perform competitors can dilute profits and business growth. Others believe company products become more refined when morality figures into competition and companies value the ability to fairly compete. Anti-trust laws attempt to preserve fair competition, although some critics view it as a detriment for big business. Besides anti-trust rules, not many universal ethics policies exist, leaving companies on their own to create standards for dominating and challenging rivals.