When I was in college, been awhile, the key phrases which were continually bantered around my business law class was "Good Corporate Neighbor" and "Responsible Corporate Neighbor." At that time in history the American people and government had finally realized the devastation uncontrolled pollution was having on our environment.
The media utilized a visual barrage vividly showing sewers pumping millions of gallons of raw sewage or toxic industrial waste into the waterways we drank from and played in, as well as the tops of dozens of smoke stacks belching black toxic fumes and particles into the air we breathed, a very effective campaign.
Did many of these companies knowingly dump these pollutions into the environment without regard to the devastation they were creating, yes of course there were.
There were also many companies operating in what I call, a Gray Zone in which they knew it was harmful, but lacked the technology to prevent it, such as the development of scrubbers, or were not going to spend the capital needed to fix the problem.
The public outcry and government action resulted in, possibly the fastest and one of the most successful resolution of a serious problem, in the history of big business. These are the types of results the sincere implementation of ethical practices by the business community can achieve.
Defining exactly what constitutes good business ethics are, at times difficult, but the obvious implementation of unethical business practices is quite easy to define and see, unless there's a concerted effort by the perpetrator to conceal it.
For instance, the utilization of every conceivable cost cutting effort and productivity increase in order to produce products cheaper, enabling the undercutting of the competitions' price, is standard business practices which must be maximized in order to remain in business.
However, if a business knows the integrity of a particular part in their product is suspect and could result in property damage or personal injuries, yet continues to produce the product due to profit motivation, this is clearly unethical practices.
A company's ethical standards should be created and implemented with the same seriousness afforded the company's Mission Statement.
Ethics in business should not really be difficult to define, as it really is not any different than our normal conscious which guides us through our normal life. Sometimes we forget a "business" is not some living, breathing and uncontrollable monster, it's the end results of the people operating it.
An average intelligent business person, when approached with a deal Too good to be true, would immediately have red flags, bells and whistles or both resounding inside his head.
The response to an unethical decision should be every bit as alarming and quick to resonate inside his moral fiber.