Not just “how” but “why”: a personal reflection on business ethics and the crisis

Business has the potential to be good: from the innovative and beneficial products and services it produces, to the fulfilment people can find in work, including the ability to support their families.

But many people feel that business does not live up to these standards. In surveys, a third of the public think that British businesses generally behave “not very ethically” or “not at all ethically”. Incidents like the recent whistle-blower within Goldman Sachs (who claimed that people within the firm called their clients “Muppets”) will have strengthened these fears.

This paper discusses whether, after decades of rapid change, a vacuum has emerged in business ethics and what possible consequences of this could be. It also considers how business ethics could be strengthened and the challenges of doing this in the in the context of a globalised business world.