Business ethics is the behaviour, coupled with moral principles and values that administer all the measures and decision of a business and persuade them to stick on it in its day-to-day interaction with the people. The day-to-day action of the company and it’s dealing with the people leave an imprint, which determines whether the actions and decision of the company are ethical. Sometimes businesses confuse ethics with policies or law. We can’t say a company ethical just because it follows all the policies and is completely lawful. There is something beyond the policy matters and legal aspects of a business. This is something like being social and being socially responsible is two different things. It is, therefore, imperative for the businesses to distinguish measures, which are legal but not moral, ethical but against the law, and legal as well as ethical.
The sole motive of any business is to make the profit. This is not wrong. What matters is the way it makes the profit. Ever since the start, businesses are ardent in capturing consumer’s discretionary income and strive to persuade on what they buy. The modus-operandi to take hold of consumer’s money broaches ethical or unethical behaviour, which further makes the businesses gain good or bad reputation.
Just to cite an example, a customer of a reputed telecom operator receives an SMS, “Thanks for downloading 3DBigfootRacing game. A charge of Rs 50 would deduct from the available account balance.” The customer hadn’t downloaded the game so lodged a complaint with customer care section of the telecom operator. After a lot of frustrating arguments, the company apologized and reinstated his mobile balance. This act of the company raises a few questions, viz. Why the customer’s account balance would deduct for a single penny when he has not downloaded the game? Or how the company would reinstate customer’s account balance if the customer had downloaded the game or availed the service? Answer to both questions would show shoddy, immoral, and unethical behaviour of the telecom operator.
In a similar incident, a customer of another telecom operator receives an SMS, “GamesClub subscription Service is activated on your mobile and Rs.5 would deduct from your account. To deactivate the service, dial xxxxx from your mobile.” The customer has neither requested for this service nor given his consent to activate it on an automated basis. The next day he again receives the same message and Rs.5 deducted from available balance. When contacted, the customer care executive informed that this is an automated subscription; to deactivate dial xxxxx. He did so and got back Rs.5 to his account. The question is that how a company can activate a service and charge for it without customer’s consent? In both incidents, companies are doing monkey business, which would affect its reputation adversely. This is unethical as well as illegal. With this behaviour, in short run, they may make some profit, but can’t sustain in longevity.
This is not the case of one or two customers or one or two or larger or smaller companies, or global or local brands. A large number of businesses belonging to different industries, locations or groups are busy in such immoral practices with the motive of making more and more profits. Several times such unethical practices make them vulnerable to fines or penalties for breaching ethical business laws or norms. Albeit the Govt. imposes fines in millions or billions, the profit made is so big; they couldn’t just avoid becoming disreputable.
Though, there are some good and high-minded companies, general perception among the public is that the businesses making bigger profits may not pay much attention to their ethical behaviour as the profits earned outweigh the fines or penalties imposed. In the process of making profits, businesses don’t care much for people. Increased competition, inter-alia, in the marketplace coerces businesses to adapt even unethical measures to push their products to consumers. Perception of public about a product or service is the most important aspect of any business. Under no circumstances, a business can expect profits unless the customer buys the products or services.
Due to the emergence and spread of Television, the Internet, Radio, Print Media and enactment of several acts to protect consumer’s right and to control unethical business practices, public expectations for ethical business behaviour have also increased. Businesses must contemplate whether they are making profits ethically and legally. They also strive to make sure to uphold ethical behaviour at all levels – be it management or functional. They must realize that it just takes one slip for a business to lose customers, but it is time-consuming to gain a new customer and a bit expensive compare to retain the current one.