Corporate Social Responsibility: Guidelines for Top Management

By Jerry W. Anderson Jr. | Go to book overview

12
Ethical-Moral Considerations

ETHICS AND MORALS DEFINED

In discussing ethics and morals as it applies to individuals, business, and society, three words (ethics, morals, and ethical) will be frequently used. Therefore, a good starting point might be to give a quick dictionary definition of each word and then progress from there.

Ethics: The system or code of human conduct, with the emphasis on the determination of what is right and wrong.

Moral: Relating to, dealing with, or capable of making the distinction between right and wrong in conduct, good or right in conduct or character.

Ethical: Conforming to right principles of conduct as generally accepted by a specific profession or group, a given system of ethics, and so on.

With these three definitions in mind, the next step is to apply them to defining ethical conduct. Since so many of today's actions are based on legal concepts, this area must also be entered into the picture. First of all, legal behavior includes ethical behavior; Chief Justice Warren once said "law presupposes ethical norms and commitment."1 Ethical conduct, however, goes beyond legality and is more comprehensive. For instance, it may be legal but it is ethical to take more time to do a job than is necessary to do the job? Or, is it ethical to call in sick when you are well and take a day of leisure? To believe that any action that is not illegal is acceptable is totally naive at the least and an invitation to complete chaos and disaster at the worst. If

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