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Consequentialism, Deontology and Virtue Ethics in Companies

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    Why should directors, executives, and accountants understand consequentialism, deontology, and virtue ethics? Consequentialism is based on the concept that the moral worth of an action is determined by its outcome. And that the consequences of one’s conduct are the true basis for any judgment about the morality of such conduct. Thus, from a consequentialist standpoint, a morally right act, or failure to act, is one that will produce a good outcome, or consequence.

    This view may also be expressed as “The ends justify the means”. Directors should understand consequentialism because the actions they take or don’t take boils down to the ends justify the means. Deontology states that an action may be proper even if it does not produce a net balance of a greater good for society or the decision maker.

    A director needs to understand the a deontological principles are completely separated from any consequences which following those principles might have. For example, if a director tells the accountant to “cook the books”, the accountant may have deontological principles or moral principles that tell them that lying is wrong , then lying is always wrong, even if that results in harm to others.

    Directors, executives, and accountants should understand virtue ethics because it focuses on whether a person acting is expressing good character or moral virtues when making a decision. This ethical approach emphasizes the character of the moral agent, rather than rules or consequences, as the key element of ethical thinking. In other words, doing the right thing like reporting accurate financial statements, even though it may cost him his reputation, status or even his employment.

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