What Do Ethics and Corporate Social Responsibility Mean Today?

“Ethics is a body of principles or standards of human conduct that govern the behavior of individuals and groups” (Bottorff, n.d., p.1). “While ethical behavior is based on a set of values and principles, ethical behavior goes beyond mere belief; it also encompasses actions of individuals, groups and organizations (p. 2). Ethics encompasses “the principles, norms, and standards of conduct governing an individual or group” (Trevino and Nelson, 2003, p. 13). Ethics can be considered a set of standards that an individual or organization uses to guide actions of the individual or group. Corporate social responsibility “is about how companies manage the business processes to produce an overall positive impact on society”

A socially conscious organization recognizes its responsibilities on several different levels, including; economic, legal, ethical and philanthropic responsibilities (Trevino and Nelson, 2003, p. 31). Therefore, ethical behavior can be seen as one aspect of a socially responsible company. A company cannot be socially responsible if it only looks after its economic and legal responsibilities. There are times when a company must do more than what is required by the letter of the law and consider what is ethical. This is especially true for multi-national organizations that operate in countries with varying legal responsibilities. The company must be driven by ethical standards above and beyond bare minimum legal requirements.

Just as ethical behavior is a part of a socially responsible organization; it is difficult to imagine a company that is striving to be ethical, not to become socially responsible. As a company examines its ethical actions, they will be driven to make decisions that become more socially responsible. This is especially true as the company strives to provide ethical treatment to all stakeholders beyond shareholders. If employees and community are considered in the decision making process as stakeholders, then decisions will be made in ways to reduce negative and enhance positive outcomes for each group. Hence, the company’s actions become more and more socially responsible.

Ethical behavior then is one component of a social responsible organization. If the organization or leader strives for social responsibility, they will be driven to act more and more ethically toward all stakeholders. Likewise, an ethical leader or organization will become more socially responsible as they consider making decisions through an ethical lens.

Magnify: “To make great or greater; to enlarge; to augment; to exalt.” – Webster

James’ vision is to magnify individuals’ natural abilities; maximizing their full potential and increasing their value as leaders and professionals in the organizations where they work and serve. He is the founder of Magnify Leadership and Development, a training consulting company with global experience in management/leadership and sales force effectiveness training; the author of Magnify Change Leadership; and training consultant.

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