I found our discussion in class last Thursday, regarding whether or not a business can be ethical in its actions, extremely disturbing. To me, this isn’t a question. Correct me if I am wrong, but don’t we as people – including our families and friends – make up a business? So if a business cannot be ethical, doesn’t that mean that people cannot be ethical?
It is extremely hard for me to believe that a manager sitting in a Shell office is consciously deciding to make money by harming the lives of many African tribes. I also firmly believe that some companies give to charity because the manager that made that decision to give to X charity wanted to do something good for the world. Some companies may make so much profit that instead of keeping it all for themselves, they may actually want to share their wealth (not far from what AG Lafley was pushing for in his article, Executive Pay: Time for CEOs to take a stand). But is there any way to really know if a business decision is being made for moral reasons or only to increase the reputation of the company?
The CEO of Nike made me skeptical of my own theory about this good in the world, as he didn’t seem to care about his overseas “sweatshops”, but I would like to believe that he is a rarity. I understand that people within a business are “different” than they are outside of work, but don’t they still have ethical values. Wouldn’t a manager still feel badly about making an unethical decision? Maybe I am naïve, but I like to think that people like my parents, as managers, are ethical in their daily operations.
I would like to believe that there are other reasons that unethical situations arise. Maybe the managers of Shell do not know exactly the consequences of their actions. If this is the case I think that they should strive to learn of these by, for example, visiting their over-seas sites, but it would show that maybe the managers of Shell are not being as unethical as we think.