Business Ethics

August 7, 2010 in GrandmaPedia by Victor Bunderson

This blog takes the position that business ethics is an important issue.  The social and health costs of profitable, highly-marketed and widely sold foodstuffs are becoming a great threat to the financial and physical well-being of this and other nations. But it is a difficult ideal to achieve, and must be worked at continually.  More ethical companies may suffer financially in comparison to those who are less ethical because the latter can sell at lower costs. As consumers, we bear a difficult responsibility to reward the more ethical ones and punish the lesser ones.

The contested status of this term "Business Ethics"  is explored in a Wikipedia article states that “…economist Milton Friedman held that corporations are amoral and CEOs have only one duty: to maximize the profits of a company.” Other thinkers look more broadly, as in this blog.  But in practice, it seems that the big food companies maximize profits then react when problems arise.  If there are social costs to be paid along the way, the companies follow a business logic of trying to manage these costs and keep them as low as possible.  The government facilitates this corporate behavior by subsidizing partial solutions attainable through the political process, including subsidies for rising health care costs. This helps the companies treat these social costs as side issues, arguably not their concern.

More Ethical food companies increasingly seek research on health consequences of their products. Some sponsor socially desirable research and programs.  Those that do so should be encouraged in print and by patronizing their more healthy offerings.