Consequentialist Theories in Business Ethics

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Consequentialist Theories in Business Ethics
Dhiraj Khatri, Student (MBA), Australia

Most theories pertaining to Business Ethics, Corporate Governance or Corporate Responsibility are either Consequentialist or Non-consequentialist by nature.
According to this branch of corporate governance, consequences alone determine whether an option is morally correct: "The end justifies the means". Hence, according to consequentialist theories the consequences of one's conduct are the ultimate basis for any judgment about the rightness or wrongness of that conduct. It might be okay to lie or act unethically in order to generate a greater happiness. Hence, the consequences decide how a decision should be made.
Utilitarianism and Egoism are two most prominent consequentialist theories. Here is some more information on the main Theories of Consequentialism:
  • UTILITARIANISM: An action is justified if it is generating greater good for all even at any harm. An example of this might be if the cruise ship is sinking and the captain has the chance of saving a 1000 lives at the cost of two. The act is considered to be justified by Utilitarians, as it is generating greater good at the end.

  • INDIVIDUAL ETHICAL EGOISM: In individual ethical egoism, individuals always act in order to generate an output which is in their best self interest. An example of this would be an athlete taking performance enhancers in order to stay ahead of his or her competitors.

  • UNIVERSAL ETHICAL EGOISM: This theory suggests that everybody ought to act in their best interest. Furthermore, it also states that one should be concerned with others well-being to the extent that it contributes to their self interest. An example of this might be the health and welfare programmes of corporations that also have an agenda to efficiently lower sick leaves at the workplace. Hence, the corporation is serving its employees with the purpose of serving its own interest.
It is prominent from each of the theories and the examples that with consequentialist theories consequences are of paramount importance while taking a moral standpoint.
⇒ Please share you further observations, cases or experiences of consequentialism in business organizations. Thank you.

Source: Hooker, B. (2000). Ideal Code, Real World: A Rule-consequentialist Theory of Morality. Oxford University Press, Chicago.


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