Philosophical Foundations of Business Ethics

Table of Contents


Business ethics are special values and moral principles that a business entity embraces in its business processes, and the professional conduct of the human assets of the companies. Business ethics are designed to ensure that companies observe the required moral standards in performing business. Business ethics also determine the level of sustainability associated with various business activities in a company. Business ethics may have different meanings to different people. This paper highlights five quotes from different authors with a focus on the meaning of the quotes in relation to business ethics.


Aristotle said, “the virtuous person feels at the right time, on the right occasion and in the right fashion” (Ladikos 78). Being one of the most practical philosophers, Aristotle was inclined toward advocating the observation of virtues in business. Aristotle’s view on business ethics was geared toward ensuring all individuals involved in business processes attain happiness and satisfaction. Aristotle called for business entities to develop values that fostered the development of an environment that promoted happiness in consumers and the employees. Aristotle’s quote meant that all activities should be guided by reason, and the individuals involved in the respective activities should look to assume reasonable behaviors.

Aristotle’s quote means that business ethics are derived from upholding personal virtues. The quote compels people to assume a character that responds to different situations accordingly. The responses should always be guided by moral values, and their outcomes should be positive for the human entities affected by an individual’s decision. The development of virtues in business requires the development of a political framework that compels human assets in business to assume moral conduct (Bragues 3). The political framework is headed by a leader whose values are reflected by the employees. This means that the virtues held by the leader in an organization determine its ability to uphold business ethics.

Adam Smith said, “It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker that we expect our dinner, but from the regard of their own interest. We address ourselves not to their humanity, but to their self-love and never talk to them of our own necessities, but of their advantage” (Smith par. 2). This quote was highlighted in his book “The Wealth of Nations,” and he meant that the values of the people involved in the business determine the nature of the ethics associated with a business entity. Smith indicated that the essence of business ethics is to ensure that customers are not inclined toward making demands for moral conduct on the part of the people delivering services.

The service persons should be naturally compelled to assume the required ethics that guarantee satisfaction for the clients. Smith’s quote also reveals that business ethics entail being selfless on the part of the business person. Business people should be willing to sacrifice their energy to ensure their clients are satisfied with the service offered. While Smith believes that his quote meant that business ethics are propagated from the conduct of the employees, I believe that the leadership and management functions have a big role in it. The leaders and managers in an organization are charged with the development and enforcement of business ethics in their respective companies.

Immanuel Kant said, “Always treat humanity in a person as an end and never as a means merely” (“Kant’s Ethics: Some Key Ideas,” par. 1). Kant advocates that business entities should uphold deontological ethics. Kant’s quote meant that the ethical behavior of individuals around other people should be guided by the need to follow the rules. His claim that people should be treated in a humane way regardless of the situation is an indication that he supports morality in all actions.

His sentiments can only be attained through the development of ground rules to help business entities propagate a sense of responsibility in human resources. While looking at Kant’s quote from the perspective of business ethics, it is apparent that the philosopher aims at compelling leaders to instill a sense of obligation in their employees to treat the consumers fairly. I believe that business ethics encapsulate the rules implemented by the management in relation to the code of conduct of the employees. Every profession in an organization should be braced with a code of conduct that is strictly enforced by the management. This is one of the most effective ways of ensuring the employees operate on moral grounds, which is the basis of the deontological ethics promoted by Kant.

John Mill is a renowned critical thinker and an outspoken supporter of utilitarianism. His work has been cited by many researchers in business ethics. Mill claimed that “holds that actions are right in proportion as they tend to promote happiness, wrong as they tend to produce the reverse of happiness” (Mill 1). Mill’s sentiment in this quote is that all decisions made by a business must yield happiness in the concerned parties. This is a utilitarian principle that most business entities must observe. I support Mill’s idea because business ethics should guarantee happiness for the parties involved. The company, employees, and the customers must always emerge happy after the execution of business activity. Utilitarian ethics should prevail in business because they influence sustainable development.

Adam Smith claims, in his moral sentiments theory, that “humanity, justice, generosity, and public spirit, are the qualities most useful to others” (Smith 284). Selflessness is one of the elements of the theory of moral sentiments. Companies should develop the habit of helping society meet its goals. Meeting the needs of the consumers should be the first priority for business entities, and this is considered ethical conduct. Smith’s quote is a challenge to everyone to ensure that the interests of their counterparts in business are met. I believe that Smith’s sentiments are valid because business ethics are tied around the idea of helping others meet their expectations. Business ethics are influenced by the need to respect other people and the environment.


Business ethics are policies developed by companies to ensure that their business processes are handled in an ethical manner by the human asset. Many scholars and authors have developed an interest in business ethics, and their individual definitions of business ethics fall under different types of ethics. Business ethics entail the development of codes of conduct to be followed by employees to ensure the customers are satisfied. Employees involved in service delivery should ensure that their conduct is parallel to the rules of the organization. It is essential to develop a political platform that compels the employees to enhance their competence in observing the moral principles of the organization.

Works Cited

Bragues, George. “Aristotelian Business Ethics: Core Concepts and Theoretical Foundations.” Handbook of the Philosophical Foundations of Business Ethics 1.1(2013): 3-21. Print.

Kant’s Ethics: Some Key Ideas 2015, Web.

Ladikos, Anastasios. “Revisiting the virtue of courage in Aristotle.” Phronimon 5.2 (2004): 77-92. Print.

Mill, John, Stuart 2007, Utilitarianism. Web.

Smith, Adam 2012, The Theory of Moral Sentiments: To Which is Added, a Dissertation on the Origin of Languages, London: G. Bell & Sons. Print.

Smith, Adam 2015, An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations. Web.

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