Inclusion of ethics, as an integral part of the environment, raises the subject of environmental ethics. The environmental ethics considers the living organisms, living things, or plants and animals that live in the environment, apart from human beings
Background History on Business Ethics
The term “business ethics” has contexts in different ways making the history of business ethics vary according to how one perceives the subject. The history is likely to vary on the historians. How they also perceive the term, what facts they seek to find as first hand information, and the importance the historians see on those facts. This subject solely depends on the historian, but at the end of it all, the facts should prompt some discussion, and someone else grasps it giving a different story on the same.
The term business ethics has at least three different usages, although all the three have an evident similarity. The way that one chooses to prioritize gives meaning to the nature of history on the subject. The first source of the term dates back to 1970, when the term originally used in the United States. Its origin here associated the term with academic writing, meetings, and in development of an academic field of teaching research, and publication. Later on, the term got more usage in the media and public discourse. In these two places, it got association with business scandals what they called “ethics in business.”
The association with business scandals broadened the sense of history of business ethics, and it makes the history of business relevant in this subject. This means commercial exchanges, which later developed into economic systems. Lastly, business ethics corresponds to a movement within the business field, or the movement to build illegal ethics into structures of corporations in forms of ethic codes, ethic committees, and ethic training. Today, the term has widely spread globally making its meaning and history vary (George, 2012).
The Ethics Sense of Business Ethics
In this view, ethics in business means the application of everyday moral or ethical beliefs to business. From a philosophical approach, Kant discuses the need of fairness in the republic and Aristotle discusses economic relations, commerce and trade. The idea of business ethics continues to date. It focuses on the moral and ethical actions of individuals. In discussing this subject, immoral or unethical examples immediately come up. Included in this subject is the criticism of corporations that use child labor, pay their employees poorly or those who utilize suppliers running very low business.
Marx claims that capitalism has a basis on exploitation of labor. This is a moral condemnation because “exploitation” is associated with morals in an immoral way. He based his analysis of ethics in business on the labor theory of value. According to this theory, all economic value comes from the human workforce. Again, Marx argues that the only commodity not sold at its real value is human labor. He says that human labor receives very low compared to what it produces. In its place, socialism would be adopted which would later develop to communism. At the end, the society would be free of exploitation.
Many businesspersons strongly apply religious beliefs and ethical norms in their business activities. Aaron Feuerstein is a good example. When his Mill Factory caught fire and almost destroyed, he still paid his employees. He kept them on the payroll until the factory was back in business. Business ethics is very prominent in ordinary persons whenever there is a discussion about the subject. Bad ethics is a representation of the need of ethics in business or corporations. Business people should incorporate good ethics in their activities; treat their workforce in acceptable ways (George, 2012).
Business Ethics as an Academic Field
In another perspective, business ethics is looked at an academic field. After the Second World War, the United States was becoming a dominant economic force globally. American corporations were growing, and big businesses replaced small business. Later on, corporations found themselves under attack by the public, this lead to the development of social programs, which captured corporation’s activities beneficial to the society, and usually, not all were beneficial, the companies with activities that were not good for the society was charged with unethical behavior. Business schools responded by developing of social issues in management courses which is thriving today.
Business ethics, as an academic field commenced in 1970s, and before this time, there were courses called by name dealing with ethics and business. Most parts of the ethical education incorporated in social courses. Researchers continued writing and teaching on business ethics. Management professors did research on corporate social responsibility. Business ethics later developed after philosophers made their contribution to the subject. They developed ethical theories and philosophical analysis on various business issues. Henceforth, business ethics emerged because of intersecting ethical theory and case issues analysis.
Business ethics is now firmly entrenched. The need for ethics in business continues. As an academic field, it contributes to discussion forums, research, and teaching that instill knowledge to both ethics and business ethics movement. From this academic view, it is evident that a lot has been accomplished. Historians deal with the past accounts not the future. Looking into the future, there is still a lot to do. Business ethics is a vibrant, complicated enterprise in a gradual development, which is both fascinating and dynamic (George, 2012).
Inclusion of ethics, as an integral part of the environment, raises the subject of environmental ethics. The environmental ethics considers the living organisms, living things, or plants and animals that live in the environment, apart from human beings. In order to protect these organisms, living things from extinction in the environment, some come up with rules that forbid some human action against degrading the environment. Environmental ethics, questions the human race about certain key factors associated with the environment in relation to business (Borkar, 2010).
The environment is one factor that affects business. There exist various environmental issues relating to business ethics. According to Shaw (1998), there are moral environmental issues relating to business ethics. These issues include ecology, traditional business attitudes towards the environment, problems involving environmental abuse, and many others. Environmental ethics considers the ethical issues between the natural environment and the people, the kind of decisions people make about the environment. For example, people can pollute the environment by disposing waste anywhere.
The decisions people make, subsequently have consequences that are why environmental change happens. The need to observe environmental ethics comes in when the environment shows effects or affects the human life, affecting business. Environmental ethics tries to answer questions on how humans relate to their environment, how to use the earth’s resources without harming the environment, and how we should treat the rest of species, plants, and animals (Shaw, 1998).
Historical Profile of Lebanon
The heritage of Lebanon is as old as the earliest evidence of humankind. The geographic of the country is strategical, linking the Mediterranean with the Asian hinterland. The linking characteristic has given the country a cosmopolitan legacy. The country’s occupants are Arabs, but westernization is very high. In different times of history, Lebanon has seen different rulers including Assyrians, Babylonians, Greeks, Romans, and Ottomans. Lebanese always rebelled against repressive rulers. The mountainous terrains in the country have isolated Lebanon giving the country some protection enabling it to survive though often conquered.
Lebanon’s proximity to the water bodies, especially the sea has given the country an important position as a major trading center. The tradition of a business begun with the Phoenicians and was passed through generations, remaining stable through foreign rule, and worst experiences in their internal struggles. Lebanon has undergone major civilizations evident in the different cities. The earliest businesses date back to the 1750s chartered in 1818. Lebanon enjoyed prospered growth in the 19th century, moving from agrarian roots to a unique number of enterprises. These served the local community and growing markets in the United States.
The Shaker sect was between the two earliest successes in the country. The headquarters of Shaker was in Mount Lebanon and a popular resort in the Lebanon Springs. The Shakers built their community to almost 600 citizens. It also founded communities around the nation. The community shared skills in architecture, furniture design, and household crafts. They produced enough items to sell to the outside world. Homes and businesses in the valley were constructed using posts and beams.
Business Ethics in Lebanon/Middle East
Corporations have become more aware of the need to incorporate issues on business ethics, corporate social responsibility, and sustainable development in the running of their businesses. Unethical practices threaten the goal towards prosperity. Managerial behaviors, which do not augur well with the workforce, only pose as an obstacle to business growth. The level of ethics in a corporation needs scrutiny, especially in the Middle East countries, for example, Lebanon. Lebanese workers, through research, displayed mixed responses concerning the level of ethics in their respective working places.
From the responses, it is evident that some corporations may welcome bottom line indicators over transparency issues and many other issues concerning ethics. For such corporations, there is a need for immediate intervention strategies to curb unethical situations, and welcome growth, development across Lebanon. Companies in the Middle East hardly have ethics programs. In addition, Lebanon lacks analogous regulatory elements that uphold ethics programs. Companies in the region focus on their initiatives that contribute towards the long-term sustainability of the company.
Corporate integrity and ethics can also fall on this focus, but they hardly focused on it. The type of business here aims in moneymaking. The initiatives include good governance within the company and corporate responsibility including some ethic programs. Their main aim is to improve the country’s operations and ignoring the ethical needs. The companies forget about the workforce as being a powerful asset (Herde, 2005).
For example, Dubai aspires in being an international business spot. Corporate responsibility has happened in Dubai for over three years, and at this point, there are no developed best business practices. Some businesses focus on corporate social responsibility, while others especially in regulated industries, for instance, the finance sector focuses on corporate governance and compliance. Dubai has not yet adopted business best practices. In addition, corporate responsibility may expand given the new Dubai International Financial Exchange, which opened in September 2005. The stock exchange aims at increasing foreign investment by providing an environment where investors know that their money invests in companies with strong governance and financial controls (Herde, 2005).
Religion in the Middle East, which is mainly Islam, has an influence on the business activities in the region. Business owners tend to use religion as a guide. This closes opportunities for other people who do not share in the Islam religion. The Islam religion has led to extensive philanthropy in the region by companies in the region. The Middle East has a small business community based on family. Many companies either from through inheritance through generations or have a strong family foundation. Most of the workforce in the top management consists of family members. In such a business environment, conflicts of interest may happen. In addition, if there are investments from other organizations, the loyalty of the employee's targets to the family rather than the organization.
In the United Arab Emirates, discrimination is a usual happening. Employment of people based, characterized, and determined through discrimination. UAE’s population is nearly 20% Emirati, 80% expatriates. However, Emirati forms a higher percentage of the unemployed and 45% of Emirati nationals. In addition, companies should initiate a program whereby they educate their workforce on the various forms of discrimination. Some of the discrimination faced by employees include based on gender, age, national origin and religion (Herde, 2005).
Environmental Issues Lebanon/ Middle East
The Middle East region is not a market to sell to anymore. In a near future, it will become a global business owner status. The industrial chains in several industries including logistics, manufacturing, and finance lead the Middle East transforming it gradually to a global business hub. The Middle East is the main oil producer, there is a risk of environmental degradation. Showing concern and implementing regulations, policies, and laws to protect the environment will help the region in strategizing to make their dream of being a global business owner (Ravi, 2007).
Keeping in mind that the Middle East does is yet to institutionalize the subject on business ethics; environmental ethics leaves the environment at risk. Some of the main environmental issues that may arise in the Middle East include air pollution, water pollution, which has adverse effects on the environment and human living things. Companies in the Middle East mainly produce oil and gas surplus. The waste from oil production industries discharged into water bodies. This is environmentally unethical. Water bodies harbor life of fish, plants, and other water plants. The wastes discharged in these bodies contain chemicals and toxins. The toxins accumulate to highly toxic levels, which may cause the death of water life.
This is a serious matter, which needs attention and appropriate measures. Air pollution has adverse effects on human health, and climate. People living near the oil production areas risk their health. The gases released may cause respiratory diseases or even cancer. The gases released into the air may accumulate leading to weakening of the ozone layer. The ozone layer specifically blocks the sun’s rays from directly reaching the earth’s surface. If it breaks, the rays will reach the earth’s surface and lead to adverse effects on humans, plants, and climate in whole, for example, global warming, which happens because of accumulation of gases in the air. All this only means that the effects of unethical environmental issues due to business will only affect human beings (Ravi, 2007).
Positive Ethics to the Environment Lebanon / Middle East
To avoid all the negative ethic practices to build a future with a strong ethical background, there is a need for sacrifice. A significant destructive feature of ethics in the Middle East is corruption. It is a serious ethical problem globally. Corruption leads to losing of honesty, accountability, and transparency. This problem is urgent and needs serious intervention. Policies need implementation and tolerance of unethical practices in companies in the Middle East will only create a thriving ground for corruption. Governments should implement ethical codes. Disseminate the codes in seminars and posters informing people they should not give bribes for any services, instead report any form of corruption.
The leaders or management of various companies and businesses has a role to play. They should lead their workforce equally, avoid discrimination of any manner, and listen to the workforce individually. The way they lead their workforce will determine whether the subordinates will adopt business ethics. In order to reconcile business with the environment, companies should adopt measures that pollute the environment minimally. Companies found not practicing safety measures legal action on them is the best option.
Almost all these business activities lack ethics to the environment. The raw materials, air, and water pollution are some of the business activities that do not respect the environment. These are examples of how the business may affect the environment. When there is water pollution, the animal waters risk death. When there is air pollution, gases released include carbon dioxide, which may lead to global warming. Environmental ethics should stiffen to avoid degrading the environment and subsequent extinction of other environmental organisms and animals.
Kant’s Theory and Business Ethics
The theory establishes the need of morality in all aspects of life including business. It says that people should act accordingly to maxims they would want to want to implement into beliefs, and people should avoid being treated as the last option even if the option means profit. Kant’s theory strongly states that the highest good is that of goodwill, the essence of acting on the line of duty. For example, if a merchant is honest in a bid to gain a good reputation the honesty lacks morality.
The ethics in Kant’s theory is those of duty rather than implication. Businesses should not be moral to impress consumers. This theory applies to both the workforce and consumers. The theory views a business as a moral community whereby the involved stand by each other in a moral relationship. The influence they have between each other is positive. The theory talks of universalization. This means that the theory stands for business laws free of any form of corruption to enhance international trade.
- George, T. D. (2012). A History of Business. Santa Clara University. Retrieved from http://www.scu.edu/ethics/practicing/focusareas/business/conference/presentations/businsss-ethics-history.html
- Dove, I. (1997). Business Ethics in the Middle East. Journal of Business ethics, 16, 1555. Borkar, R. (2010). Environmental Issues. Buzzle.
- Shaw, W. H. (1998). Business Ethics 3rd ed. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth Pub Co.
- Herde, E. (2005). Perspectives on responsible Business Practices in the Middle East. International Business Ethics Review, 8(2).