Business ethics is a form of applied ethics that examines ethical principles and moral or ethical problems that arise in a business environment.
In the increasingly conscience-focused marketplaces of the 21st century, the demand for more ethical business processes and actions (known as ethicism) is increasing. Simultaneously, pressure is applied on industry to improve business ethics through new public initiatives and laws (e.g. higher UK road tax for higher-emission vehicles).
Business ethics can be both a normative and a descriptive discipline. As a corporate practice and a career specialization, the field is primarily normative. In academia descriptive approaches are also taken. The range and quantity of business ethical issues reflects the degree to which business is perceived to be at odds with non-economic social values. Historically, interest in business ethics accelerated dramatically during the 1980s and 1990s, both within major corporations and within academia. For example, today most major corporate websites lay emphasis on commitment to promoting non-economic social values under a variety of headings (e.g. ethics codes, social responsibility charters). In some cases, corporations have redefined their core values in the light of business ethical considerations (e.g. BP's "beyond petroleum" environmental tilt).
Business ethics has gone from being perceived
as a luxury to a necessity, said Berg. "Some
companies have lost everything because of
unethical actions. All those employees who
depended on the company for an income lost
everything. That is what you have to compare to
the cost of running an ethics office." Gnazzo
reiterated the view that good ethical practices
can lead to good business, that ethics is a
management issue, and that an ethics office
should be considered a business asset by an
organization's the senior leadership.
Asked about the degree to which the
companies' codes of ethics influenced their