Business Ethics - Ethical Relativism

Business ethics is a domain which deals with the study and implementation of applied or professional ethics in a corporate culture to avoid ethical problems in a single or multi-cultured environment. Human beings are rooted to the norms of their societies. What is desirable for one person may not be acceptable for the other due to scientific, philosophical or religious views. The theory that believes ethical views should be viewed differently under different circumstances for people belonging to different cultures is ethical relativism. It is a controversial theory as it rejects a universal framework for ethics. Since people who work in a business environment come from different backgrounds, it is easy to make them agree on a single code of ethics rather than understanding the norms of each and every employee.

Business ethics is implemented via corporate policies, ethical officers or by hiring ethical services to assess the code of conduct. The corporate policies have a set of rules and regulations to follow to avoid any ethical issues that could arise due to ignorance of a cultural norm that is expected to be followed. Apart from the concern that how business ethics are set or what interests the business has while setting them, it is made sure that it is unambiguous and applicable for all by making employees sign the terms and conditions for joining the company. These ethics are usually set to screen people who might have issues working together.

Ethical relativism is highly criticized especially in business cultures due to its drawback of a non unifying ethical framework. Some philosophers believe that a set of fundamental ethical principles are same in all societies and that their practical implementation of it may differ. Others argue that some moral values may be culturally relative if not all. The most strong criticism regarding relativism is the impact of its concept on moral beliefs when a society can't seem to reach a consensus on a sensitive topic. Ethical relativism does help us to acknowledge the fact that different cultures have their own traditions and we should respect and try to understand them to avoid offending anyone unconsciously.

Business ethics should be set and revised in a way to lay down practices by respecting the feelings of all employees expected to work in that specific corporate culture. Ethical relativism can be used in a business cultures to create awareness of different moral beliefs in different societies.