Business ethics is the assessment and analysis of how business acts in decision-making process according to moral concepts and judgments. Ethical concepts range through defined issues such as the company’s obligations to be honest with their customers, customers responsibility to preserve environment and protect employees rights. It is important that there is a balance in the ideals between the need to produce reasonable profit for the company’s shareholders with honesty in many business functions, safety workplace, and other social issues.
However, the higher one company rises in the world of business, the higher the possibility of being tempted to exchange principles for success. Ethical issues become more complicated because of their want to maximize profits. In the usual cases, company commits bribery, sexual harassment, racial discrimination and lack of concern for the environment. These were done so as to force the workers to increase productivity and thus maximize profits. However, this is against the ethics in the business since this violate power imbalance between employees and employers.
There are many theories in business ethics. Three of these are the utilitarian, rights-based, and the virtue ethics. These three theories are related to each other and goes hand in hand so as to establish a good and ethical business actions. Utilitarian Ethics is a part of consequentialism. It is a view that says “all action is for the sake of some end” (John Stuart Mill). Utilitarianism judges the moral worth of, whether right or wrong based on the consequences whether the result will maximize well-being or its contribution to over-all utility is maximized.
Utilitarians count the interest of everyone and considers to maximize the good as defined by happiness, pleasure and well-being of the people affected. Rights-based, on the other hand is concerned on the standards and policies directed to promoting and protecting human rights. Its principles include the following elements: 1. express linkage to rights 2. accountability 3. empowerment 4. participation 5. non-discrimination and attention to vulnerable groups Express linkage to rights entitles any person of his own human rights.
This calls for the comprehensive considerations or guaranteed rights: civil, cultural, economic, political and social covering a person’s health, education, housing administration, personal security, and political participation. Rights-based theory also focuses on raising levels of accountability. It identifies the claim-holders and look at both positive and negative obligations. It protects, promote and provide fort he person while abstaining from violations. Rights-based theory also provides preferences to empower charitable responses.
This gives people the power, capabilities and access needed to change their own lives, develop their own commonities and influence their own destinies. High degree of participation is also required in Rights-based Theory. According to UN declarations in Rights to Development, active and meaningful participation is not enough; issues on accessibility must be given prior attention. Discrimination, equality, equity and vulnerable groups are some of the prior concerns of Rights-based theory. Lower minorities, indigenous peoples and prisoners must be provided equal treatment so as they are also human beings.
Rights-based Theory provides guard on reinforcing existing power imbalances. (Human rights-based approaches to development for practitioners in Asia Pacific) And lastly, the third theory is the Virtue Ethics. This one emphasizes the virtue on moral character. It simply heeds moral rules as “do unto others as what you would be done by”. Virtue ethics in short is a theory that judges an action based on moral virtues such as benevolence, honesty, charitability and among others. In the case of United Beef Packers, there are several issues that break the 3 ethical theories.
United Beef Packers maybe one of the good companies founded by Ken Hill not until he could no longer enjoy believing in communication, teamwork and treating his employees well. Ken Hill began practicing eventual firing of his employees. The sudden change of Hill caused the union to hold a strike in protest. Analyzing the scenario, it is evident that Hill breaks the 3 theories of ethics that is very important to the business. In the Rights-based Theory, Hill failed to express linkage to rights. Employees are entitled to their own right.
Building a union is a right of every group of workers and sudden firing without reasonable basis is an act of defying human rights. Such action also collides with the principles of Utilitarianism. What would happen to the fired workers? What good would it do for the workers who spent their skills for the job assigned to them? Would the staffing of recent immigrants and poorly educated locals in replacement for the fired workers be beneficial to the company? Such questions will obviously give negative answers that show how over-all utility will not be maximized. Evidently, Ken Hill breaks the theory of Virtue ethics.
His actions fail to heed the moral virtues that affect other human lives. Another issue is the employee’s safety. UBP let the workers injuries to remain very common and avoid paying their medical costs. In the sense of Rights-based Theory, workers are entitled to rights concerning health and safety. It is the responsibility of the company to provide safety for their workers. And it is also the rights of the workers to receive insurances on their medical costs especially that the injuries were got through working in the company. Through Utilitarianism, the company failed to provide their workers maximum contentment, happiness and protection.
The action provided consequences that have negative effects on both the workers and the company itself. On the other hand, in terms of Virtue Ethics, the company failed to show morality for the workers. It is their obligations to provide medical costs for their workers but they avoided doing so. Issues on respect to workers are another scenario that breaks theory of Virtue Ethics. Respect is a virtue and workers are entitled to be respected. And the company failed to recognize respect as a virtue that must be given for other people.
Analyzing the situation in terms of Right-based theory, it is evident that the company has failed to perceive the principle of non-discrimination and attention to vulnerable groups. The vulnerable group here is the group of workers which are not given prior respect. There exist a power imbalance between the supervisors and the workers. Workers are treated as slave drivers which is very wrong. Even if they are workers with low position, they re still entitled with rights of being respected. Using Utilitarianism, we should look at how the actions resulted.
Evidently, there are negative effects in the side of the workers and the company as well. Another discriminatory issue is the harassment and abuses that female workers experience. In the Rights-based Theory, it is also an issue of discrimination. Females were harassed and abused in exchanged for easier work. Females are females and are still they do not deserve to be treated as such. Females are entitled with respect and good considerations. On the other hand, analyzing the situation using Utilitarianism would consider the angle pertaining to the result or effect that would affect the women.
What would the woman get in such discrimination? Obviously, nothing but negative effects. Therefore, the company is breaking the theory of Utilitarianism. The consequences would do no good for the lives of affected people. Consequently, using the theory of Virtue Ethics, then company, like the former situation, commits the violation in respecting women. Another scenario that violates ethical issues is letting tainted meat to go out for sale. This resulted in E. coli infections and other food poisoning. This situation shows the violations in the Utilitarian theory.
Letting tainted meat to go out for sale resulted bad effects such as E. coli infections. Using the Rights-based however, the company breaks the principle providing guaranteed rights. It is their responsibility to provide good quality and safe products and so it is the rights of the consumers to enjoy good quality and safe products in exchange to what they pay for. But then the company failed to provide this right. On the other hand, analyzing the situation using the virtue ethics, the company lacks the virtue of honest and they must be honest in providing their consumers the goods that worth their payments.
It is very important to be honest as to achieve the trust of the people. Achieving this trust would be very beneficial in the reputation one of the company. United Beef Packers is just one example of the companies that are continuously practicing unethical decision-making in business. If this situation would persist, eventually the company would experience sudden downfall. Therefore it is recommended for the company to stop practicing unethical actions.
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