Most companies, especially large corporations, have developed clear ethical guidelines and policies. Because employees continually face many situations that have ethical implications, it is extremely useful to have a set of clear and consistent policies.
Some of these issues include protecting customer confidentiality or receiving gifts, gratuities or special favours. A clear policy can ensure that ethical issues are firmly, fairly and consistently applied throughout the company.
In virtually all situations, it is illegal to discriminate against employees because of religion, sex or ethnicity. Businesses may not discriminate in hiring, promotion, pay or treatment. It is also the responsibility of the employer to create an environment that is not hostile to any individual or group based on these factors. It may also be necessary to take reasonable steps to accommodate the employees’ religious observance needs.
New technological developments present a range of other ethical challenges. It is now much easier to accumulate, buy and share customer information.
Technology also makes it simple, cheap and even inviting to duplicate copyrighted works, including software, music, data or written work – presenting a new form of risk for businesses. Ensure that all team members are clear about intellectual property issues. In some cases it may even be worthwhile seeking legal advice to eliminate any element of doubt.
When developing an ethics policy, there are a number of issues to consider, particularly now in light of global and technological changes. Some of these include:
Legal dealings. How does a business ensure that it obeys the laws not only of its home country, but also of other countries in which business is conducted?
Employees. How do businesses ensure that managers treat employees fairly, honestly and with respect? What processes exist to guarantee that subcontractors act ethically? What guidelines will be established for the personal use of company property, such as company cars, phones and email?
Customers. What steps will be taken to deal honestly with customers? How do you ensure truth in advertising and on websites? How should employees deal with gifts and other benefits from customers or suppliers?
Community. How does a company measure the impact of its actions on the community?
Environment. How will the company take into account the impact of its actions on the environment, including its choice of suppliers, manufacturers, distributors and waste disposal??