Development of business e3thics prior to the 1960’s, focus to ensure that workers were fairly paid and that businesses did not increase the prices of their products to a level that would be intolerable or harmful to the average consumer. It was also during this period that issues of civil rights and environmental responsibilities were introduced into ethical issues for business to address. At this early stage of business ethics, much of the issues (fair wages, labour practices, and the morality of capitalism) were discussed from theological perspectives.
From the 1960’s, primary attention shifted to social issues in business. These included questions of environmental pollution and consumer rights (rights to safety, information and choice). It was in the 1970’s, however, that business ethics began to develop as a distinct academic field. Using the framework of some religious principles that could be applied in business, the idea of corporate social responsibility was developed. For instance, the religious precept that truth should always be told was employed in support of the demand for honesty in business. By this time, philosophers had entered the discourse of business ethics, employing basic ethical principles and theories, as well as philosophical analysis to structure the discipline of business ethics. Issues that became prominent during this period include bribery, deceptive advertising, product safety, and of course, environmental pollution.
By the 1980’s business ethics, as an academic discipline, became firmly consolidated. Several centres and academic institutions began to offer courses in business ethics. It also became a prominent concern of many leading companies. From the 1990’s till date, emphasis in business ethics include such issues as free trade and self regulation of businesses. During this period, there has been a transition from legally based ethical initiatives to culturally and integrity based initiatives that make ethics a part of core organizational culture.
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