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Business and the Environment: Ethics

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Introduction

Ethics refers to morality, that is, what is good or wrong. It is a branch of philosophy that deals with human behavior and it acts as a guideline to act and conduct of members of a given society. Usually, the society will lay down certain codes of conduct that each and every person is expected to observe or follow. These ethical codes of conduct often dictate people’s behavior in respect to most social issues. It spells out what is good or wrong, what constitutes a virtue or a vice and what should be considered to be evil, crime or just. According to Berry, the concept of ethics is ambiguous, vague and complex since it often results into conflicts, also known as ethical dilemmas, between the societal norms and the intrinsic beliefs, values and attributes of an individual. Ethical values are usually derived from cultural practices, religion, previous deeds and tradition.

Berry stresses that ethics are usually based on rational and well established standards of what is right or wrong and often lay down what humans are required to do (Berry, 1993). Ethical standards are stated in terms of rights, obligation and benefits that the society derives from conducts of people, for instance, the obligation one bears when he rapes, kills or fraud will make him refrain from such irresponsible behaviors.

According to Daniels, ethics develop when an individual builds his/her characters on virtue, through adoption of universally accepted rules of the society or based on the individual’s feelings. Daniels further puts forward that ethics is relative in nature, that is, it depends on the individual, culture, historical background and/or tradition (Daniels, 2001). Similarly, it is utilitarian in nature. This implies that a person’s act should achieve the greatest benefits to the majority and the society at large. However, Berry contrast this notion since it can lead to possible harm and sacrifice of rewards or benefits to minority group in the society at the expense of the majority (Berry, 1993).

Ethics is as dynamic as the world itself. It changes as different aspects of life changes too, for instance, female genital mutilation (FGM) that was once popular in many cultures in early 1970 is today considered unethical. Taylor challenges this relationship between the societal values and ethics by question whether it is wise for persons to behave only in accordance to manners that the society accepts. He thus asks, “Is it doing what the society accepts that makes an act ethical?” (Taylor, 2011).

Professional Ethics

Professional ethics is a branch of business ethics that regulates the behavior and conduct of professional workers and organization which they work for. The society often expects professionals and corporate organizations to conduct their businesses in a responsible manner. Most professional disciples such as accounting, engineering and medicine are guided by sets code of conducts that are to be used in day-to-day decision making. Such codes will often indicate precise use, exercise and application of respective professional knowledge and skills in the business environment. Examples of professional ethics include honesty when dealing with customers, employee loyalty, integrity, confidentiality, respect and adherence to laws of the country. In order to effectively implement professional ethics, most organizations have laid down codes of practice that all employees and other stakeholders are required to follow and adhere to.

Environmental Ethics

This is a field of study that concerns the ways in which persons should behave with regard to the natural world. It defines the values and duties and responsibilities that people have towards the environment. Environmental ethics concern the conducts individual and organizations in helping or hurting the environment. Roderick suggest that environmental ethics takes care of humanity and the environment. It deals with how people interact with the environment, the animals, plant species and the nature in general thereby creating sustainable and high quality ecosystems (Roderick, 1989). In relation to environmental ethics, organizational actions should be self-reflective, that is, how they impact the surrounding should be reflected in both short-run and long-run stay, for example, uncontrolled air pollution would lead to increased global warming. Activities of human beings and organizations should aim at rebuilding the environment by circumventing and evading unnecessary disruptions to habitats of other animals and plants.

Berry recommends that organizations should deliberate be agents of morality with respect to the environment. According to him, matters relating to the environment are very crucial and may thus involve making critical and highly changing moral choices (Berry, 2007). Such decisions should show humane concern and responsibility, environmental importance the urgency to preserve it. Everybody must realize that the fate of humanity and future life lies in the hand of the current inhabitants/occupants of the planet earth and users of environmental resources.

According to Roderick, the disadvantageous consequences of misuse of the environment lie disproportionately towards the disadvantaged groups in the society (Roderrick, 1994). For example, most garbage dumpsites are often located in slum areas outside the urban centers. However, this notion should be used disposal of waste since those neglected areas still form part of the larger environment. Relevant authorities and government agencies should exercise environmental justice and equity during urban planning and management activities.

Politics should not be used as a tool for disconnecting and disrupting the link between ecology and humanity. Environmental ethics and politics should thus be several miles apart.

Case Studies on Environmental Ethics Theories

In their book “Case Studies in Environmental Ethics”, McNamara and Derr are claiming that the teaching and research of application of ethics in environmental issues, just like any other field, similarly require the use of case studies. They postulate that case studies will help clarify the various ethical theories used in environmental ethics (Derr & McNamara 2003).

In my view, this assertion is true and valid. This is because the case studies, when properly used in teaching of environmental ethics, will offer a wide range of contexts and further exploration of consequences and impact of human activities to the environment. Case studies also offer scenarios that can be easily compared with the implications of human deeds and other moral beliefs they hold. Similarly, case studies help us develop intellectual skills that facilitate quick comprehension, understanding and interlinking or connection of environmental theories with the real human practices. As the authors put it forward, case studies will assist in determining the underlying truth in various environmental theories (Derr & McNamara 2003).

Moreover, the authors claim that environmental courses should be taught to enable people find answers to various problems relating to the environment (Derr & McNamara 2003). In my opinion, it is true that the study of environmental theories will enhance knowledge acquisition and consequently facilitate wise decision making. Similarly, environmental theories provide valuable and useful decision making tools that are essential in environmental policy formulation. The study of environmental theories, thus, helps in deriving the real meaning of various phenomena in the surroundings.

However, it is worth noting that a cogent theory should be able to provide accurate solutions to problems, have a wide scope and be applicable to a wide range of problems. Just as McNamara and Derr notes, not all theories will fit exactly into society’s moral insights and perceptions (Derr & McNamara 2003). Their application will hence depend on the benefits derived and the value they create.

Chinese Corporation Polluting Water Bodies

The article that I have chosen is “Greenpeace report links western firms to Chinese river polluters” written by Jonathan in “The Guardian Magazine”. The article is about a Chinese corporation that supplies Nike, Adidas and other world leading brand. The company is alleged to be discharging it chemical wastes and other toxic wastes into China’s major water systems. This information was made available after investigations were carried out by an environment watchdog organization called Greenpeace.

The investigation further linked Lacoste and H&M to pollution of river Yangtze and Pearl. According to the article, the firms were trading with multinational companies that strictly observed environmental laws in their home countries where their suppliers in China were busy destroying their surroundings. To support this claim, a range of pollutants were discovered from two major firms. The investigations were conducted for a timespan of one year and thus can be perceived to be reliable. Youngor, a textile firm, was discovered to have been discharging nonylphenol into the water bodies. It also discharged its effluents into rivers Shiji and Fenghua. It was reported that China has been leading exporter of textiles since 1995, but this has equally have negative impacts on its economy and the environment.

However, the partnering firms denied any association or dealings with Youngor that would result into environmental degradation. This led to the question whether the company could bear the moral obligations associated with its misconduct and if could be able to restore the water bodies into their original form that is safe for aquatic life. And to what extend would it be able to restore the value of human and aquatic life that has been deteriorated. I may conclude that foreign firms should, therefore, encourage their trading partners and supplier chain stakeholders to operate in an environmentally friendly manner.

Conclusion

Since high environmental quality is vital and necessary for healthy existence of flora and fauna as well the quality of such lives, it is important to take great care of the environment. Environmental degradation has been catalyzed by various factors such as increased production levels, high rates of growth of industries, increased number of manufacturing firms and advancement in technology that might negatively affect the environment. There must be a sustainable relationship between humans and the environment. The benefits, costs and risks involved in any particular act that would negatively impact the environment should be an issue of concern to the participants. This also includes taking into consideration the effects such acts would have into the present and future generations.

In my view, organization should avoid extreme exploitation of resources because this would result into their depletion and decrease in value and consequently become uneconomical. Individual behaviors as well as organizational activities should not be self-centered. Otherwise they should encourage biodiversities. In addition, organizational activities that would subject the plant and animal lives to danger should be highly discouraged and evaded.

Governments, in conjunction with environmentalist and conservationists, should develop good and feasible environmental policies that show high degrees of significance of the ecosystems. Similarly, international organizations such the World Commission on Environment and Development should advocate for animal rights and proper use of the environment and it resources.

All companies should be mandated to incorporate environmental ethics in their dealings. Similarly, there should be no mix between environmental matters and political issues.

It is the responsibility of every member or stakeholder in the society to respect the nature, its resources and other living organisms. All persons should act responsibly.  In my view, all stakeholders should adopt policies that target preservation of the environment, improve ecological integrity as well as humanity and enrichment of animal and plant lives.

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