It is not easy to distinguish ethics from business ethics. The two concepts are intertwined. However, some key points can help to differentiate the two. This blog post will discuss the difference between ethics and business ethics and how they both play an important role in our society!
What are Ethics?
The etymology of the word ‘ethics’ comes from the Latin word ‘ethos,’ which means character. It is defined as “rules and regulations that have been formed to allow an individual to work according to moral principles. In almost all organizations, there is a code of ethics imposed on the employees”, and they are principles that guide behavior [Source].
Ethics can also be viewed as “moral principles that govern a person’s behavior or the conducting of an activity; the branch of knowledge that deals with moral principles” [Source].
Ethics are concentrated on a system of moral principles, prescribed regulations that one needs to observe and influence how people make life decisions and co-exist with others. Society usually appreciates people who uphold good ethics.
What are Business Ethics?
Business ethics are “written and unwritten principles and values that govern decisions and actions within companies” [Source]. They can also be defined as a “form of applied ethics or professional ethics that examines the ethical and moral principles and problems that arise in a business environment.” They are further broken down into personal, professional, and corporate ethics.
Moral Ethics vs. Business Ethics
Moral ethics concentrate on “morally good and bad and morally right and wrong. The term is applied to any system or theory of moral values or principles” [Source]. In contrast, businesses focus on dictating one’s conduct at the workplace. Moral ethics rely on personal beliefs and values, including religion, tradition, culture, and upbringing, and business ethics have to be drafted by a company’s authorities or the administration.
Society usually gives out morals because they are part of a larger group of people believing in the same values, such as respecting the elder and saying please. Business ethics are contextual because companies have different beliefs and values. In some cases, the founders are in charge of workplace conduct. Failing to obey business ethics such as responsibility and reliability can lead to a person being dismissed from their job, but not observing moral ethics only makes a person shunned in society.
Moral ethics expand to everyone in a certain area, while business is only contained for people who work at a particular place.
Difference between Marketing Ethics and Business Ethics
Marketing ethics is an “area of applied ethics which deals with the moral principles behind the operation and regulation of marketing. Some areas of marketing ethics (ethics of advertising and promotion) overlap with media and public relations ethics” [Source]. On the other hand, business ethics exist in a working environment, usually at a company’s premises.
Marketing ethics are part of business ethics since they are bundled into business activities. But most business ethics are for the workplace, and marketing ethics creates a bridge between a company and the outside world. A company or corporate ought to sell its products to customers or clients and acquire tenders to make money. This is the marketing team’s job which needs to convince the clients.
Marketing ethics extends to the marketing team upholding agreed-upon terms with clients and maintaining confidentiality. This team also needs to ensure that they do not offend customers from different backgrounds. Marketing ethics can also be subject to change given the ever-changing trajectory of clients or customers. Business ethics are the umbrella rules and regulations aimed at telling employees under a certain banner how to behave and carry out their duties, while “practicing ethics in marketing means deliberately applying standards of fairness, or moral rights and wrongs, to marketing decision making, behavior, and practice in the organization.”
Relation between Ethics and Business Ethics
Ethics are a “collection of principles of right conduct that shape the decisions people or organizations make” [Source], and business ethics do branch out to focus more on workplace behavior. These two concepts intertwine to inform people on good or bad behavior.
Also, both concepts are rules and regulations governing the conduct of people in various situations and help them in decision making. Ethics such as saying ‘please’ and ‘thank you and taking responsibility for one’s actions are also found among business ethics, which creates a strong linkage.
Importance of Business Ethics
Business ethics ensure that employees follow all the rules at the workplace and can respect the managing staff. Also, since employees come from different backgrounds, they have to learn how to co-exist, and business ethics teach them tolerance and hospitality to become good colleagues. They also increase employee retention, attract investors, build a good reputation, encourage teamwork, and promote healthy competition [Source].
Difference between Ethics and Social Responsibility
Social responsibility is described as an “ethical framework and suggests that an individual has an obligation to work and cooperate with other individuals and organizations for the benefit of the community that will inherit the world said individual leaves behind” [Source], and ethics are a rule book governing people on the appropriate behavior. Ethics “speak to individual, occupational, organizational, or societal morals and values,” and social responsibility is the “practical application of ethical concerns for the benefit of society as a whole” [Source].
Social responsibility is an “ethical theory in which individuals are accountable for fulfilling their civic duty, and the actions of an individual must benefit the whole of society” [Source], and ethics can either benefit the society in cases such as giving back or benefit an individual living an exemplary life or just becoming a good person.
Difference between Personal Ethics and Business Ethics
Personal ethics refers to the “ethics that a person identifies with in respect to people and situations that they deal with in everyday life,” and business ethics are guidelines relating to workplace conduct and how to easily co-exist with colleagues at the same company or corporation. Personal ethics enable one to overcome challenging situations such as interacting with neighbors from other distinctive backgrounds or with unique traditions, while business ethics ensure that an employee can dress or talk appropriately with others and even respect the hierarchy at work.
Personal ethics have a freewill element. A person can choose to abide by them or not, while business ethics are more mandatory. Suppose a person does not adhere to personal ethics. In that case, they lose favor in the eyes of society, but ignoring business ethics can make one lose their job. Many people are persuaded to practice business ethics to keep their jobs and receive an income monthly, but personal ethics are ignored since they do not necessarily have financial returns.
Business ethics tend to be enforced either by HR or administration, and personal ethics can only be imposed on children by parents or at church; otherwise, when a person is an adult, there is no authoritative figure to impact personal ethics. Lacking personal ethics is a sign of an unorganized person who has problems living with others. A lack of business ethics shows unruly behavior by an employee or ignorance of business skills and qualifications. In terms of personal ethics, the society or close family members get to verbally crucify unethical individuals, whereas, in business ethics, the managing staff or the boss will take stern measures against misbehavior.
Personal ethics are also linked to personal values in religion, culture, and tradition, while business ethics are rooted in the working environment. Many people make sacrifices and compromise to observe business ethics to get paid; for example, an atheist can work for a Christian and even attend a meeting that starts with an open prayer. But personal ethics do not demand such sacrifice and only rely on a person’s dedication to become a good citizen.