The moral floor: A philosophical examination of the connection between ethics and business [Book Review]

Journal of Business Ethics 91 (1):145 - 154 (2010)
Abstract
This paper examines the philosophical basis for the argument that there is a connection between ethical behavior and profitability. Both sides of this argument – that good ethics is good business and that bad ethics is bad business – are explored. The possibility of a moral floor above which ethical behavior is not rewarded is considered, and an economic experiment testing such a proposition is discussed. Johnson & Johnson suffers a potentially devastating blow when some cyanide-laced Tylenol capsules cause several deaths. Johnson & Johnson voluntarily pulls Tylenol off the shelf, to universal acclaim. When Tylenol is returned to the marketplace, its share of the over-the-counter painkiller market becomes greater than it was before the tragedy. Arthur Andersen, the venerable accounting firm, is caught in the web surrounding the downfall of Enron, Inc. As Enron’s various sins are discovered, it is found that Arthur Andersen auditors had signed off on flawed audits and had shredded documents to cover themselves. Andersen is prosecuted for, and convicted of, obstructing justice (although the conviction is later overturned). Today the firm barely exists and has no resemblance to the Big Five accounting giant of 1999. These stories seem to indicate that ethical (or unethical) behavior leads to positive (or negative) financial results. But the philosophical arguments underpinning such statements are seldom subjected to proper analysis. They are perhaps wishful thinking, or perhaps based on examples such as the above without considering other examples that may reinforce a contrary position. This paper will explore the philosophical arguments and empirical evidence regarding these statements and state some research questions for exploration in this area. In particular we will propose the possibility that a moral floor exists above which firms that engage in ethical activities will not reap rewards, but below which firms that engage in unethical activities will be punished by actors in the economic marketplace. We will discuss an economic experiment to determine if such actors indeed form a moral floor.
Keywords ethical behavior  corporate social performance  corporate financial performance
Categories (categorize this paper)
Options
 Save to my reading list
Follow the author(s)
My bibliography
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Revision history Request removal from index
 
Download options
PhilPapers Archive


Upload a copy of this paper     Check publisher's policy on self-archival     Papers currently archived: 11,085
External links
Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server
Configure custom proxy (use this if your affiliation does not provide a proxy)
Through your library
References found in this work BETA
Citations of this work BETA
Similar books and articles
N. Craig Smith & Michelle Quirk (2004). From Grace to Disgrace. Journal of Business Ethics Education 1 (1):91-130.
Analytics

Monthly downloads

Added to index

2009-04-27

Total downloads

32 ( #54,394 of 1,101,585 )

Recent downloads (6 months)

2 ( #178,496 of 1,101,585 )

How can I increase my downloads?

My notes
Sign in to use this feature


Discussion
Start a new thread
Order:
There  are no threads in this forum
Nothing in this forum yet.