Ethical theories

Ethics and ethical behavior is a longstanding debate in the business world. Lack of ethics has catastrophic consequences including collapse of markets, financial recessions and loss of consumer trust. Despite the evident importance of ethics in business decision making, putting such into practice has always been a conundrum (Beatty & Samuelson, 2012). This is due to the presence of various ethical dilemmas that complicate choices of right and wrong. Even in applying established ethical principles specific to a profession, such dilemmas often emerge. To operationalize ethics, one therefore needs a fundamental understanding of ethical theories to apply the same in their specific contexts. This paper summarizes two ethical theories applicable in a given case study.

The case presents a scenario where an organization wants to determine the treatment of its employees, suppliers and customers along ethical lines. One of the theories that the company would use to prove to the above stakeholders that they cared about them was utilitarianism. Fronted by among others, J.S Mills, this theory categorizes correct actions as those that maximize pleasure and minimizes pain with the greatest net gain (Beatty & Samuelson, 2012). As such, the company can demonstrate how they have averted pain to all stakeholders and increased pleasure to the majority. The idea is to create happiness for the greatest number of people. Another theory to use in this case is deontological ethics, which centers on principle. In this case, the reason for an action takes precedence over its consequences (Beatty & Samuelson, 2012). The company can thus demonstrate to its stakeholders that they have acted in principle regardless of the results they have realized.

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In the end, ethical theories are necessary in instilling and justifying ethical behavior. They offer a fundamental approach to justify choices of right and wrong in the organization. As demonstrated, utilitarianism and deontological approaches can suffice to this end.


Beatty, J. F., & Samuelson, S. S. (2014). Cengage Advantage Books: Introduction to Business Law. Cengage Learning.

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