THE IMPORTANCE OF BUSINESS ETHICS
published: Sunday | April 11, 2004
FITZ-RITSON and LOPEZ
Ayanna Kirton, Staff Reporter
IN RECENT years the term 'business ethics' has taken on new relevance in the wake of accounting scandals that have discredited some of the world's largest and well-respected companies.
The list includes WorldCom (now MCI), Tyco International, Parmalat, and Enron whose financial executives have faced charges and possible jail time for financial misdeeds. Now, the Business Roundtable (BRT) aims to restore public confidence in Corporate America with a US$3 million initiative to educate future CEOs on business ethics.
According to an ...view middle of the document...
"In understanding Jamaican business ethics or moral values it is important to trace the evolution of the morality of local businesses that have a long history to observe the changes over time as the society changed," Dr. Witter said. "Over 300 years of British colonial enterprise still casts a shadow over all Jamaican institutions, including modern businesses. Many of today's moral values were shaped by colonialism and there is a nostalgic view that it was the departure from colonial norms that has caused many of the undesirable practices today," he said.
However, there is also the critical view that it was precisely the ethics of colonial business and the quest for profits that account for the inequities and injustices in today's workplace, the low rate of investment in human beings, and the preference for foreign solutions to local problems, Dr. Witter said.
According to him, the trade off between profit and ethical behaviour refers to short run profit that cannot be sustained. On the other hand, long run profit or sustained profit-making is based on ethical behaviour that brings company goodwill among its stakeholders. It is also directly related to better relations at the workplace leading to efficient enterprises because of more co-operation, less waste, more initiative and responsibility by employees as well as goodwill and stronger brand names for enterprises, said Dr. Witter.
In addition, companies that behave ethically are more socially responsible and benefits are spread across the board to all stakeholders. For example, to employees through additional benefits such as share options, to customers through the timely delivery of quality goods and services at reasonable prices and to shareholders through increased dividends.
Professor Neville Ying, lecturer at UWI's Mona School of Business said courses in ethics such as legal, social, and ethical aspects of business as well as business, society and government, offered by the business school to its MBA students, have immediate application because they provide business people with the awareness and decision-making skills necessary to address ethical issues and take decisive action. "Our MBA and EMBA students are currently in top and middle-level managerial positions so these courses that show them the importance of adhering to government regulations, meeting community obligations, and accountability (for their actions) are extremely relevant," he said.
Yvonne Bignall, vice president of academic affairs at University College of the Caribbean (IMS/IMP), said courses in ethics provide students with a grounded understanding of the issues they will encounter in the corporate world. Elements of ethics are integrated into the school's business studies curriculum. Students then see ethics as an integral part of other subjects they are studying, such as finance, accounting or marketing, and are able to respond appropriately to situations that may arise throughout their...