Ethics required for business to thrive, survive Article by Shiv K. Gupta “In a free society, a moral foundation is indeed imperative for every organization and every individual, not only for internal governance but also for the establishment of outside relationships and the conduct of external affairs” (Gupta, 2004). Gupta opens his discussion with this profound observation after a brief account of the imprisonment of a business mogul. With this statement, Gupta underscores three important attributes of ethics, and corporate social responsibility (CSR) in general, that are often overlooked: that it is observed in a free society, thus it is prompted by will and volition rather than compelled by regulation; that it is observed not only by the organization but also the individual, thus it is both institutional and personal; and that it is not only internal but also external, thus it should be manifest in both word and deed.
Other insights in the article revealed a pragmatic and down-to-earth appreciation of the potentials and limitations of the social responsibilities of a corporation. For instance, while the ideals were enticingly romantic, Gupta urged compromise in the setting of targets and implementation of plans.
The debate on the extent of corporate ethics social responsibility is often dominated by extreme views by fanatic advocates on one hand, and close-minded traditionalist businessmen on the other. One or the other side is against the best interest of the public it seeks to serve, because either extreme is impracticable as much as unacceptable. In order to effect this compromise, mutual trust is an indispensable element in CSR. Advocates should trust that businessmen will exert an honest effort to abide by their promises, and businessmen should trust advocates to help in finding ways and means to allow the company to thrive even as it works within acceptable standards, and to hold it to realistic expectations. The article concludes with the observation that corporate ethics and social responsibility requires a transformation of the company’s vision from the narrow and superficial, to the expansive and sublime.
“Corporate morality, as an intensely personal proposition, must be based on principle, not policy, and conviction, not expediency; and it must be governed by the conscience of top management” (Gupta, 2004).
Corporate ethics could thus not be transplanted or imposed from outside, as it must necessarily emanate from within. Reference: Gupta, S.K. (2004) “Ethics Required for Business to Thrive, Survive, ” The Wall Street Journal, March 8, 2004.