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Business ethics - social responsibility - Essay Example

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Business ethics - social responsibility

In addition some philosophers have posited different approaches for delineating the ethical from the unethical, these are essentially shades of the above three basic approaches, and not recounted here.
This essay looks at Consequentialist and Virtue Ethic approaches and their application in modern business practices using specific reference to the supply chain up to the customer of flowers that are out of season within the United Kingdom.
Flowers, grown in all parts of the world, find their way to the auction houses in Holland. Buyers and representatives of large dealers buy the flowers and transport them to their respective countries and from there to the retail outlets. The chain is so organised that the flowers are at the retail outlets within hours of harvest. However, glitches do take place and the flowers may be out of season by the time they reach retail. In addition, stale, and flowers of lower quality sometime spend more time in the auction areas until a buyer picks them up at fractional prices or a decision taken to destroy them. A number of questions of ethics and ethical behaviour arise here from the points of view of the supply chain, the retailer, the customer, and consumer groups.

Within the paradigm of consequentialist ethics, according to Williams (1973), confusion exists between goals (the desired/ desirable consequence) and actions, for once a goal is achieved, it becomes the means to the achievement of, or definition of, the next aim or goal. This continuity is bound to carry on as long as we are alive and taking some action. Therefore, the journey defines the goal rather than the consequence of a specific action. This suggests that not everything "that has value, has it in virtue of its consequences" (Williams, ibid: p 566). Thus, if one is committed to doing something that is ethically correct then the consequences of such commitment may or may not be good.

Hursthouse (1998) argues that consequentialism bases itself on a self-contained definition of "good" (ibid, p21). The good consequences targeted depend on the agent's judgement and abstract character virtues such as honesty, justice and courage and represents straying into the field of virtue ethics. If the ends justify the means, i.e. if the consequences are the only measure of judgement of the actions of a moral agent, then such judgement may not meet the context of moral rules in which the action takes place. Selling out of season flowers to draw 'good' results for the supply chain is not morally correct from the customer's perspective.

If the retail vendor of the flowers considers the consequences to the supply chain in case of a refusal to deliver the flowers to the customer and the losses it would cause, the vendor will sell the flowers and the consequences - good. However, the consequences for the customer who buys the flowers mean that the action of the retailer ...Show more


1. Consequentialist Ethics: depends on definition of what is right and what is wrong on the outcome (consequence). If the consequence of an action is good then the action is ethical. A subset of this is the Utilitarian approach, which depends on classifying an act as ethical if the outcome results in the 'greatest happiness of the greatest numbers'.
Author : miles31
Business ethics - social responsibility essay example
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