American businesses have both a legal and moral responsibility to incorporate ethics into strategic business plans. A written code of ethics, transparency in financial dealings and consequences for ethics violations are good starting points. Accountability to the public, to shareholders or the business owner and to employees is essential for both public and private companies.


American companies have an ethical responsibility to generate a profit within the realm of a secure, ethical environment. This involves creating and adhering to strong internal controls designed to reduce the likelihood of fraud, waste and abuse. Everyone from the business owner on down should sign and live according to a written code of ethics. The business should treat employees fairly and with equal opportunities for all, provide clean, safe working conditions and a way to address concerns. Both management and employees should always treat each other with respect.


Ethical responsibilities extend to and include current and future customers. American companies have an ethical and legal responsibility to be truthful in advertisements and set fair prices for the products they sell. Businesses should take every measure possible to ensure they protect the personal and credit information they collect on customers. Customer service standards should balance the needs of the business with customer demands but insist that even problem customers be treated with respect and dignity.


American companies must take steps to ensure that vendors operating in a foreign country treat employees with the same degree of respect and dignity as American companies. While workers overseas may receive a lower wage than those working in the U.S., companies have the responsibility to ensure that factories producing their products do not keep employees in sweatshop conditions. Regardless of where the vendor is located, product materials or ingredients can’t put the long-term health of customers at risk and must be constructed according to American quality standards.

Social Responsibility

Every size business has an ethical responsibility to be a good citizen. This doesn’t just mean collecting and distributing donations from employees or contributing to a worthy cause in the business’s name. Sponsoring and supporting community projects and charities, encouraging volunteerism and furthering community causes are equally beneficial options. Social responsibility also extends to larger goals such as supporting state or national initiatives for improving the overall quality of health and education.


American companies have an ethical responsibility to do no harm to the environment. Even the smallest business has an ethical responsibility to acknowledge the interdependence of humans and the environment. Company initiatives should focus on controlling waste and reducing pollution. This can, for example, include installing a water station instead of selling water in plastic bottles, setting up a recycling program and instituting a paper reduction program. On a larger scale, businesses can take steps to ensure equipment is energy efficient and environmentally friendly.