Ethics: Profit Motive and Social Responsibility

I’m sure you’d agree that the prime purpose of business is to make a profit.

The Only Motive?

But when profits become the only measure of success, we have lost sight of our shared values. When unethical business practices create unfair situations that go beyond a healthy competitive environment, we are in deep trouble. When we read about huge economic problems our eyes tend to glaze over. We lose sight of what they really mean. It is hard to imagine a billion or trillion dollars. We cannot lose sight of the fact that people are involved in these economics.

Economic problems are human problems, and so human values must be applied to their solutions. These human values and solutions come from you and me. Our economic problems will affect your son or daughters hopes of going to college and someday buying a home. They affect your right to equal opportunity in the market place. They affect my 81 year old mother’s right to health care. Numbers are not just figures on a page, they are people!

The good news is that profit motive and social responsibility can co exist and prosper when we operate with high ethical standards and compassion.

Ethics Are Not Easy

No one ever said that being ethical is easy. Living a life of high ethics is hard. Circumstance pull at us every day, urging us to take the easy way out, to twist something just a little or close our eyes for just a second. Unethical actions are committed all around us every day. We can see them, identify them, and make decisions and judgments about them.

Acts of Omission

Acts of omission can be just unethical. Saying and doing nothing can be just as unethical as the committed act, and often much more destructive. The distinction between what is illegal and what is unethical has become blurred.

We live in a world with more and more gray areas. Abortion and euthanasia are perfect examples of the blurring of what’s legal and what’s ethical. Both abortion and euthanasia are legal in many parts of the world. But it’s not that simple. Both issues involve ethics too. There are strong arguments on both sides. How do you feel about them? Are you sure you are right in your opinions? Can anyone be completely sure that their stand is correct? Correct for whom? According to what standards?

Take A Stand

To make a difference we must take a stand on difficult, complex issues. We can’t lead if we are wishy washy and indecisive. That doesn’t mean we should never change our minds or that we shouldn’t be open to new arguments (if for no other reason than to test our principles.)

You and I may have completely different views, but we can’t let that stand in the way of respecting each other’s differences. We can’t be judgmental or we cease to lead and without followers we are alone in our effort to make a difference.

© 2015, Dr. Sheila. All rights reserved. On republishing this post you must provide link to original post.

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