The Columbia Encyclopedia (2003) defines business ethics as the study and evaluation of decision making by businesses according to moral concepts and judgments. Issues involved in ethical business decisions include a company's obligation to be honest with its customers, a company's responsibility to preserve the environment and the protection of employee rights. Ethical conflicts arise due to the differences in the interests of company owners, workers, customers, and the community wherein which the business operates. The dilemma for managers is how to balance the need to produce profits for shareholders with honest business practices, safety in the workplace, and environmental and social concerns. The globalization of businesses and diversity in the workplace have also contributed to the complication of ethical issues because of different government laws that define the limits of criminal behavior. Practices which are deemed as bribery, sexual harassment, racial discrimination, and lack of concern for the environment, may be held as criminal in one country but are neither illegal nor unethical or unusual in another. The company must then decide whether to adhere to its traditional ethical principles or not, especially if this provides opportunities for maximizing profits.
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use of these type of occurrences in the business milieu, the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002 has become part of mandatory United States federal law that companies must adhere to. The Sarbanes-Oxley Act is intended to protect against corporate fraud and unethical accounting and reporting incidents. Thus, ethics training is now widely conducted to instill corporate values, rules and regulations in the minds of managers and employees.
Ethics training aims to ensure that people are aware of ethical issues and the consequences of unethical behavior. Companies which conduct ethics training are benefited by the continual application of the company code of ethics in the everyday business environment. Ethics training provides a venue for communication and problem solving that guides participants in the resolution of complex issues brought about by conflicts of interest. It helps create a guide that may be followed when exercising discretion, while defining boundaries, limitations and expectations within the organization. An ethical workplace environment is characterized by properly exercised discretion, and ethics training is a step toward corporate compliance (Today's Marketer, 2008).
An ethics training program encourages employee involvement in the process of reporting violations of the code of conduct, or any unethical practice. Compliant companies establish a procedure and a point of contact where whistleblowers my anonymously report violations. The process allows employees to be at ease when an unethical situation must be reported, and contributes to the company's corporate compliance program because it proves the company's willingness to eliminate unethical practices. Encouraging the reporting reduces catastrophic outcomes for the company, such as those which