See also: Play by the rules 120–23 ■ Profit before perks 124–25 ■ Collusion 223 ■
Creating an ethical culture 224–27
he US author Mark Twain
said we should “always do
what is right,” but this has
not always been the case in
business. High-profile scandals
such as Enron and Lehman Brothers
in the 2000s have led to a collapse
of public trust in companies.
Individuals are often tempted to
use immoral means to further their
aims. J. D. Rockefeller controlled the
US oil industry in the 19th century
because of underhanded methods
to put competitors out of business.
Today, some corporate companies
are, in essence, a collection of
individuals who want their company
to get ahead of the competition, but
are also alert to opportunities for
personal gain. They may even go
as far as illegal phone hacking or
price collusion. For example, in 2013
Dow Chemicals was ordered to pay
$1.2 billion for price-fixing.
Executives may be tempted to
break the law because of pressure
from shareholders for results or for
performance-related bonuses. Gains
from share prices and the value of
the business overall pose additional
temptations. In the 1980s, for
example, the price of Guinness
shares was inflated to assist the
company’s takeover bid for Distillers,
a leading Scotch whisky company.
Businesses worldwide are under
greater scrutiny to be ethical in
their practices. In 2011–13 several
multinational companies came
under fire for shifting profits between
countries, thereby avoiding large tax
liabilities. Though not illegal, many
regard it as immoral, and consumer
perception can affect profit. ■
A L W A Y S D O W H A T I S R I G H T.
I T W I L L G R A T I F Y H A L F O F
M A N K I N D A N D A S T O N I S H
T H E O T H E R
MORALITY IN BUSINESS
In 2013, several oil companies came
under investigation by the EU antitrust
authority for preventing other companies
from entering the price assessment
process, thereby distorting oil prices.
1265 Italian philosopher and
theologian Thomas Aquinas
states: “no man should sell
a thing to another man for
more than it is worth.”
1807 The UK and US outlaw
the Atlantic slave trade.
1948 The United Nations
(UN) adopts the Universal
Declaration of Human Rights.
1970 US economist Milton
Friedman claims: “the social
responsibility of business
is to increase its profits.”
1970s The term “business
ethics” comes into common
use in the US.
2011 The UN Human Rights
Council endorses Guiding
Principles for Business and
Human Rights, which sets
global standards for human
rights and business activity.