Responsibility Of Business Essay, Research Paper
State and describe the ethical issue, defining terms and explaining why this is an ethical problem.
The topic for this paper is the social responsibility of business. There are many different areas of this topic and they are constantly debated as to whether they are ethical or not. The issue that is to be looked at here is whether or not companies should be required to make charitable contributions either externally to society or internally within the company. These two domains are important in understanding and making decisions on the topic. According to George A. Steiner internal social responsibilities are concerned with assuring due process, justice, equality, and morality in employee selection, training, promotion and firing; or, they may relate to improving worker environment . Some of these do not apply to this ethical issue, as they are not making any sort of contribution, but some of them do. Training and improving the workers environment are definite areas of contribution within the company. Steiner explains external responsibilities as actions to hire hard-core unemployed, rebuild ghetto housing, improve the balance of payments, ease racial tensions, stimulate minority entrepreneurship, and so on . These external responsibilities are the ones that deal most directly with the topic of this paper. There are constant arguments over whether these types of contributions should have to be made by companies. Some argue that it is their duty for companies to give something back to the community and others say that all companies should have to do is make a profit. Each side provides valid points to back up their opinion.
DIVIDE the issue into sides and state them:
-SIDE ONE: Yes, companies should be required to make contributions externally to society and internally within the company.
-SIDE TWO: No, companies should not be required to make contributions externally to society and internally within the company.
Body: Give the strongest arguments possible.
A. (1) Major argument on side one.
(2) Explain, in depth, in at least 1+ pages, an ethical theory that supports this argument, using information from the research and the text (where possible).
(3) Then apply it. This the 4th paragraph not included in the 1 + pages.
The argument on side one is one that is for the idea of companies being required to make contributions. Businesses should have to make some contributions to society, but the size of what is done should also be reflected in the size of the company. Massive companies like Molson, which brings in millions of dollars a year should have to contribute or accomplish a lot more than an unknown smaller company. This side of the argument has to be based on the idea that all companies be required to contribute, but some should more than others. Business has to start giving back to the people who supported and allowed them to grow as an institution in the first place. To restrict concepts of corporate responsibility would not be in the best interest for the company, company stockholders or the public. According to Robert J. Mockler in Business and Society, businesses role in society has changed dramatically. It now involves not only being an honest and ethical member of society, but it also has to make attempts at trying to find a solution for the many pressing problems that are present in society. Many people feel that companies should be more responsible because a lot of the problems that society is facing are directly related to business operations. And since companies have contributed significantly to many of them, business is in the best position to solve the problems (Mockler, 1975) . Edward N. Cole, the president of General Motors Corporation agrees with this and has set guidelines for his company to follow. The way he sees it is that companies must alter their own objectives and goals to meet the new demands of the society they serve, while it still remains economically and technologically feasible (Steiner, 1974) . According to William Harris the reason companies need to be more responsible is due to the fact that the needs and goals of a business and the needs and goals of a human being are incompatible. Businesses are run in such a way that they need maximum return, and must grow as a company or die. While on the other hand humans want a wholesome environment to raise kids, justice and to feel safe. He feels that since businesses generally don t have these basic needs that they should adopt them and use them to their own and societies benefit. There is a great need for businesses to be required to make contributions to society because there are many problems and it seems companies are the only place left who can help.
The first ethical theory that will be explained is the Social Contract theory. Many famous philosophers have argued on this topic including Thomas Hobbes, J.J. Rousseau and John Locke. According to James Rachels in The Elements of Moral Philosophy, the Social Contract theory is where in order to escape a state of nature everyone in society must agree to a set of rules to which they must abide by in order to live alongside one another. In order for these rules to be enforced there must be a power- the state- that controls society. Therefor there is an agreement that every person living in the society must agree with and follow.
The idea of morality is also explained in the Social Contract theory. The state is there to make sure the rules of the contract are abided by while morality is present in the whole range of rules (Rachels, 146) . This theory allows humans to care about others through the conditions created by the Contract. By eliminating the state of nature it releases humans from the fear of violence and allows them to take heed of others in society. This is the goal of the theory and it creates a civic culture where individuals no longer perceive anyone as a threat or potential enemies (Delue, 112) . The Social Contract requires every person to have the voice of duty , which is where everyone must put aside his/her private, self-centred intentions in order to promote the well-being of everybody else involved in the Contract (Rachels, 147) . According to Rachels, morality is present in the rules to govern how people should treat each other, so they can agree on a decision that will be of mutual benefit, and depends on the idea that others will follow.
In the midst of the Social Contract theory is an example presented by Rachels. This example is called the prisoner s dilemma. In this example two men are arrested and each of their fates is dependent on which decision the other makes. It turns out that if each man were to rationally pursue his own interest each would be worse off. Therefor if they were both to do what wasn t in their individual best interest they would each be better off. This is reflected in the Social Contract theory where each individual must obey the rules to have a mutually respectful society (Rachels, 151-152) .
By looking at this ethical theory it can now be applied to the topic of this paper.
The concept of social responsibility of a company has to be involved in a Social Contract. By applying this theory it is apparent that every person and organisation must be operating so that all sides are mutually benefiting from a decision (Rachels, 147) . So by a company operating only on the basis of creating profit for themselves, they are thinking only for themselves and therefor are the only ones benefiting. This is breaking the rules set in the Social Contract. In order to follow this theory properly companies must make external contributions to society so others can benefit.
B. (1) Give major argument against A, as a counter argument. This is the argument for side two. This argument should respond to the argument in A.
(2) Adequately explain in depth in at least 1 + pages, an ethical theory that supports this argument, using information from the research and the text (where possible).
(3) Then apply it. This the 4th paragraph not included in the 1 + pages.
The argument on side two is against the idea of having companies be required to make contributions internally within the business and externally through society. This side of the argument is based on the idea that companies should only have to be concerned with the needs of their business. It can be based on two factors, the first being that companies have ulterior motives. They are only donating money or making contributions to society in order to improve their image as a company and not to help people out. So basically they are contributing in order to receive more profit. And this defeats the whole purpose of making a contribution. In Steiner s Social Policies for Business he says that by basing the argument on the classical operation of the private enterprise system, societies only needs of Business were that they produce goods and services efficiently. They didn t have to worry about any other social responsibilities, all they had to do was make a solid product and the people were happy. According to Steiner, Milton Friedman, who is a respected economist, agreed with this idea. He claimed that the sole duty of business was to use its resources and engage in activities designed to increase its profits so long as it stays within the rules of the game . What he means by rules is to act without deception or fraud. So all businesses should worry about is making as much money as possible for their stockholders (Steiner, 365) .
If the sole responsibility of business were to make a profit then requiring them to take on all of societies problems would create a conflict. In Robert J. Mockler s book Business and Society he says that many businesses are not equipped to solve certain social problems such as drug addiction, doctor shortages, poverty and so on. They simply don t have the funds to tackle all of these areas and then still make a profit.
The second ethical theory that will be discussed is Immanuel Kant s theory of Human Dignity. Kant believed that humans held a special place in creation. This was not a new idea, many others thought humans were quite different than other creatures in the world. But Kant believed humans weren t only different but better than all other creatures (Rachels, 132) . He based this fact that humans have an intrinsic worth , which can be described as dignity, and this is what distinguishes us from all other animals on the earth. This worth can be based on the fact that human beings are considered rational agents, who can make their own decisions. That is what makes us so much better in comparison to other creatures, the idea that we are valuable above all price (Rachels, 132) . Kant s next point in this theory deals with the idea of using something as means to an end . Animals are present only to serve our purpose, therefor we can use tem at will, but humans may never be used as a means to an end (Rachels, 132) . According to Rachels, Kant claims the ultimate moral principle is to treat the humanity in either yourself or someone else only as an ends and never as a means. Through this principle Kant is pushing the idea that humans must strive to promote the welfare only of other humans so that we are generally furthering the ends of others (Rachels, 134) . By respecting people s rationality we may never manipulate or use people for our purposes, no matter how good the purposes are.
This theory can now be applied to the argument for side two of this topic. This side says that businesses should not be required to make contributions to society. We can apply the Human Dignity theory by looking at Kant s principle of means to an end . Businesses are making contributions on the basis that consumers will see them as more socially responsible. This will attract more customers and in turn the company will make more profit. The company is therefor using people as a means to make more money, and is breaking Kant s moral principal. So in order to avoid this, companies should not be required to make contributions due to the fact that they are manipulating other humans to better themselves.
Conclusion: Your solution to the ethical issue
- take a side and argue it
- select an ethical theory
- describe/explain it in depth if you haven t already done so, using research and the text where possible.
- Show how the theory supports your argument
- Say why you chose that theory, rather than others by referring to values of the theory itself (don t say because to worked, or because it supported my argument. Explain what makes the values you supported better than the values you rejected.)
In my opinion side one presents the best argument. I think that the Social
Contract theory is an ethical theory that best supported the topic. The idea of the voice of duty is a good way for businesses to operate and it shows a good example for everyone else in society. This argument works best for me because both society and business is being rewarded. Society is benefiting from the contributions that are made, and businesses now become moral contributors to society and therefor consumers are more willing to buy from them. Business is an aspect of society and they do have a duty to be responsible just as everyone else does.
Steiner, George A. Social Policies for Business. Business Responsibility and Social Issues. Ed. Edward A. Nicholson, Robert J. Litschert and William P. Anthony. Columbus Ohio: Charles E. Merrill, 1974.
Mockler, Robert J., Business and Society (New York: Harper and Row, 1975)
Harman, William. Transformation of Business . http://context.org/ICLIB/IC41/Harman.htm.
Rachels, James. The Elements of Moral Philosophy. (Boston: McGraw-Hill, 1999)
Delue, James. Political Thinking, Political Theory and Civil Society. (Boston: Allyn Bacon, 1997).