Defining Business Ethics
Investopedia defines business ethics as “the study of proper business policies and practices regarding potentially controversial issues, such as corporate governance, insider trading, bribery, discrimination, corporate social responsibility and fiduciary responsibilities.”
Wikipedia defines it as “a form of applied ethics or professional ethics that examines ethical principles and moral or ethical problems that arise in a business environment.”
As Christians, we add a layer of accountability onto our business because we know that God is in charge of our business. We have the Bible as our guideline for all of our principles and policies in our business. We have a higher moral structure to everything we do, or at least we should.
Here’s what the Bible says about ethics in Colossians 3:1-6:
Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry.
Why do ethics matter?
Everyone wants to be treated fair. Ethics help us define what is fair in business no matter what the circumstances. We need to have a set of guidelines that helps even the newest person we hire understand how to handle tough situations.
Ethics are hard to nail down specifically, but you know it when you see it. Setting up guidelines can be easier if you have the Bible to guide, but it may be hard to find all of those edges of things that could happen if you don’t take time to to really understand the core values in your business.
What can I do about it?
Write out some basic understandings in your policy and procedures manual. Put in your values and the codes that your business operates by. Allow the moral structure to be clear and concise, but make sure it is broad enough to cover your business. Here are three questions from “The Power of Ethical Management” that may help you define the ethical policies of your business.
- Is it legal?
- Is it balanced (fair)?
- Is it right?
If you really want to nail it down your business ethics run some scenarios with your staff or at least the leadership. This will get everyone in the same mindset and help you find holes in your policies. Keep is moving and think about what ‘could’ happen and how your company should respond.
Christian business ethics is about living your life by biblical standards and running your company as though God is in charge. It’s pretty simple in theory, but living it out is a daily decision. When times get tough and shortcuts can be made, we have to stick to our true north: God’s word.
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