We often hear or read the terms ‘set of ethics’, ‘code of ethics’, and other related vocabulary collections thrown about in the ‘business’ term of the word, but how often do we experience them? Have ethics been reduced to a brochure buzzword and/or sales glossary?

Ethics are oft confused with etiquette and ‘good-manners’ and the true essence of the word has become mangled. Webster defines it as: ‘rules of behavior based on ideas about what is morally good and bad’ – But who is to determine the morally good and bad and subsequently draw the thin line in between? For they are subjective, relevant to the individual, they differ from the universal ‘cardinal sins’.

Many businesses have, or claim to have, an internally imposed code of practice that their members must follow to prevent exploitation of the client and to preserve the integrity of the profession. The morally good or bad is thusly predefined to avoid ethical qualms. Very well but not enough, for most of these aforementioned businesses abuse the ‘morally relative’, they respect the codes within the environment in which they operate, but face no ethical qualm when outsourcing to a third world country where child-labor is ‘morally acceptable’, in fact they pride themselves in ‘providing jobs’ for the under-privileged! Why not provide jobs in their local area of operations? Because, evidently, it would cost them more… So the Ethical does not hold a candle to Economical, and we find ourselves back at square one: The Client who wishes to be dealt with in absolute ethics, demands a cheaper product or service (the demand), the Business (the supply), wholeheartedly deals with the Client according to its set code of Ethics where applicable; so who is to blame? Where to point fingers? Awareness campaigns should target the Client or the Business? In my opinion, it is the Client who should be enlightened, for if it weren’t for the Demand, the Supply would not exist.