A question came to me: “Honestly, who cares about business ethics today?”
I don’t know who does and who doesn’t. But I think I can see why some do cares, and why some others don’t.
In the very first issue of Forbes magazine in 1917, B.C. Forbes, the founder of the magazine, said this: “The purpose of business is to create happiness, not to pile up millions”. This great concept of business, as much as inspiring and morally upright it sounds, is quite difficult when it comes to implementation.
Some do think that ethics in business are necessary, since business is meant to do good things. Being ethical is in congruence and inseparable with doing good things. Some see this as a sort of old-school view, as we all must admit that most businesses see themselves as profit generators instead of do-good-ers. They argue that the purpose of business is to produce money, which then lead to good things. Good is about the quality of the impact yielded from business process, not the business process itself.
In spite of all the debates, I see that ethics is real and tangible issue when we put it into the perspective of moral hazard.
What I refer to moral hazard here is about basic accountability, credibility and responsibility in business. Moral hazard is about how we can consistently response to risk in effective way, whether we are the one who is directly exposed to the risk or not.
Accountability is about making things clearer in the midst of business uncertainty. To be uncertain is just natural in any business, and therefore, any possible clarity will make things better. Credibility is about promise keeping and trustworthiness, whether it’s a direct and verbal promise or the indirect and implicit ones. Not just promises we had given to consumers or users, but to all stakeholders. Responsibility is about how we take care of things and how we get things done. It is about being part of the solution instead of the problem, and how to make things move forward instead of making it stuck.
It is very easy to demand for accountability to other people whose acts impact our life significantly, while forgetting that we also have similar impact to others. It’s easy to question for credibility of others, and just blindly assuming that our credibility is beyond question. Pointing others for responsibility is far comfortable than continuously checking into ourselves and finding how we took part in the problem.
I said, if we fail to commit on these three, we are committing moral hazard. That is a fundamental problem of business ethics.
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