Key Elements of Business Ethics

Updated Sep 20, 2022.
Elements of Business Ethics

Business ethics play a huge role in helping businesses succeed by delivering on their short-term and long-term financial goals and business objectives.

Most companies have established rules serving as a code of ethics consisting of social values such as honesty, transparency, and the like. These ethics guide employees and other parties involved in the organization's behavioral conduct.

Ethical practices encompass the established standards of integrity. It respects the relationship between customers, employees, and the top management team in the organization's structure.

Incorporating corporate ethics standards in your organization opens your organization to a wide range of long-term benefits, with trust at the top of the list.

Here are some of the key elements of business ethics.

1. Top Management Commitment

The top management has a pivotal role in building and maintaining ethical standards in their organization. They serve as the guide that pushes the entire organization towards ethical behavior.

Setting the tone on ethical standards should be a top priority for the organization's management team. The whole organization looks to the top for a sense of direction.

At the top of the organization structure, there should be plans to implement ethics policies throughout the organization's personnel and operation.

These policies need to be as solid and open as possible to guarantee ethical conduct in the organization and reap all the benefits of an ethical business.

Business Ethics Excellence Model
Source: ResearchGate

With the top management personnel taking up an open and strongly committed ethical conduct stand, the other employees in the organization now have a ready template of what is and what is not expected of them as regards their behaviors within the organization.

Commitment from the top of the hierarchy positions the organization for success, and ethical standards, guarantee that.

2. Strong Code of Ethics

All companies with practical ethics programs have a written document serving as their code of ethics designed to define the principles of conduct to guide the whole organization.

A robust code of ethics covers honesty and adherence to laws, product and service safety, quality, workplace safety, conflicts of interest, fair marketing, and financial reporting practices. It serves as a guide on the proper way of going about things in the organization.

By having your code of ethics in writing and involving employees, you create a document that everyone can relate to and strive to abide by it. 

Discuss ethic policies with every employee in your organization. Business leaders and top executives need to look into and examine attitudes toward the company’s ethics policies. 

A code of ethics reminds employees what is allowed and what is not at work while carrying out their individual and collective tasks.

It is generally the custom of each organization to formulate its unique ethical codes on how they expect their staff to conduct themselves when representing the organization in various capacities or to interact with the business environment. 

A robust code of conduct ensures mutual respect and regard for the organizational structure. Everyone adjusts to ensure compliance with the organization's code of conduct.

Business ethics versus Personal ethics
Source: Pediaa

3. Establishment of Compliance Mechanisms

A compliance mechanism ensures that the actual employee decisions correspond to the business enterprises' ethical standards.

By identifying, examining, and following ethical codes in your business training, recruitment, selection, and other critical areas, your organization is positioned to make profits and deliver on its goals and objectives.

Providing an environment where employees have a free hand without fear of reproach to report issues of unethical behaviors observed in the workplace is essential.

The organization must create a mechanism for employees to register compliance with the organization's business ethical conduct.

There needs to be a check in place to ensure that the actual decisions and actions being carried out by all quarters of the business enterprise complies with the firm's laid down ethical standards. It is where the establishment of a suitable mechanism comes into play. 

An example of an adequate compliance mechanism is paying strict and close attention to values and ethics during recruitment and hiring. It is only fair to give everyone an equal chance. 

4. Confidential Reporting System

One of the basic elements of business ethics and corporate governance in any workplace environment is a confidential reporting system for staff to air their grievances and table their complaints about unethical conduct observed in the working environment. 

You need to implement specific measures that border around an effective and confidential system that encourages employees to report misconduct or violations observed while carrying out their duties and obligations. 

With your organization taking a strict and stern stance against misconducts and violations of all sorts observed with an employee, other employees are further discouraged from getting involved in such acts as they are aware of what awaits them.

A confidential reporting system helps employees take proactive actions on issues that bother them or conflict with their values. They get to speak up and be heard without fear of discrimination.  

An anonymous reporting system works best for large business enterprises. With this system, employees are adequately protected from being labeled a snitch, as the person you report has no idea who tabled complaints against them.

By catching the aim of the misconduct early on, your company gets to save valuable time and money used to deal with the fallout in the future. 

5. Training in Business Ethics

Sometimes, a business's ethical standard can be ambiguous and too complex for employees to understand and grasp, making following and complying with these standards challenging as there is no proper understanding.

If your business ethics cannot be understood and translated into evident results in your organization processes, you risk devaluing it to a piece of paper.

Many companies have discovered the importance of business ethics to their business environment. They are taking proactive steps to incorporate ethics programs into their business enterprise by setting up their training department to train their staff on business ethics. 

The created business ethics department aims to provide the needed training to all quarters of the organization, including management, as business ethics requires all hands to be on deck for its successful maximization. 

This department is headed by a trainer tasked with providing periodic ethical training. The trainer should have enough experience in ethics to deliver maximum value to your business enterprise.

6. Ethics Coach

Coaching is a continuous process across anything characterized by a circle. It is the same for business ethics, as employees would require training in ethics to meet the firm's ethical standards.

Designating a person to train employees on ethics and any issues related to ethics is a way of showing your organization's resolve to ethical matters. This individual needs to be discrete and confidential in performing their duties and to gain the respect of other employees. 

An ethics coach is a person designated to train employees on ethics. In many ways than one, the ethics coach needs to identify various ethical dilemmas in the organization and proffer solutions to them before it negatively affects the business. 

To be respected by every employee, the ethics coach must be well trained and skilled at their job. He needs to understand the importance of their role in building an ethical business.

7. Tolerance of Ethical Disagreement and Ambiguity

Ethical disagreement and ambiguity are factors you cannot completely write off from your workplace. Bringing people from different areas and backgrounds leads to them having different mindsets about what the accepted norms are and should be.

As has been observed by numerous schools of thought, people have different tolerance levels for ethical ambiguity. The tendency for people to see ambiguous situations as desirable is different for everyone.

Generally, people with a low tolerance for ambiguity tend to view situations plagued by uncertainties as adverse as opposed to people with high tolerance, as they see similar problems with a positive state of mind.

People with a high tolerance for ethical disagreement see ambiguity as a challenge. They are more open to complexity and new ideas and see it as an opportunity to solve problems.

In your business enterprise, you need to understand that you would encounter people from both sides of the divide. Tolerating people's ethical disagreement and ambiguity forms one of the basic elements of business ethics.

8. Measuring Results

Organizations, from time to time, need to keep tabs on their important ethics policies and ensure they are being adhered to by all quarters. Ethics policies tend to be relegated to just a piece of paper if maximum adherence is not guaranteed.

Making the switch to an ethical point of view while coming from an unethical one is often very difficult. You need to have measures in place to ensure progress is made and there is no backward slip back to the dishonest way of doing things. 

Although specific difficulties arise from trying to accurately measure the results obtained from various ethics programs carried out, there are ways firms can audit and monitor compliance with their laid down ethical standards. 

Measuring Results in Ethics
Source: ResearchGate

Management and other employees need to discuss the results obtained from these audits. The purpose is to highlight areas where keeping to the business enterprise business ethics proved difficult and find a way to smoothen it in the future. 

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Anastasia Belyh

Editor at FounderJar

Anastasia has been a professional blogger and researcher since 2014. She loves to perform in-depth software reviews to help software buyers make informed decisions when choosing project management software, CRM tools, website builders, and everything around growing a startup business.

Anastasia worked in management consulting and tech startups, so she has lots of experience in helping professionals choosing the right business software.