Business ethics are a complicated field of inquiry presenting a very large and diverse group of questions about the ethical obligations of business. These questions are ripe for debate, as they present no right or wrong answers, and are seen in radically different ways by people of different ideologies and values systems. A debater or debate team looking for a question of business ethics to tackle would have many options.
A fundamental question in business is whether the business has any responsibility beyond profit. Should the business be of the singular mind that making a profit is the goal, or do businesses have an ethical obligation to “give back” in some way, either to the communities in which they operate or to charity?
In politics and business, there is a debate over the federal minimum wage. Business owners with a mind for free market as well as elected officials favor repealing the minimum wage, while supporters argue that it ensures fairer wages than workers might get if the market set the price of labor. Should businesses be ethically bound to pay employees a federally mandated minimum wage, or would the unfettered free market make wages fair out of necessity?
Labor unions are a point of contention in modern business ethics and economics. Supporters of labor unions argue that they protect workers from unfair and unsafe practices in the workplace, and provide workers with better wages and benefits. Opponents of labor unions claim that unions increase the cost of doing business, thereby decreasing a business’s ability to hire new workers, increasing the costs of goods and services for consumers and decreasing the company’s total profits. Should it be a business’s responsibility to recognize employee unions?
A major ethical dilemma in modern business stems from the growth of environmentalism and the “green” lifestyle. Modern environmental activists point out that business -- especially big business -- is a main offender in terms of pollution and its impact on climate change. The green movement believes industry needs to redesign its production methods, goods and services to be more earth-friendly. Businesses argue that totally converting to new methods would be expensive, cut into profits, decrease production and likely result in unemployment for many of their workers. Do businesses have an obligation to be conscious of the environment even if it hurts their bottom line?
Based in Virginia, Chip Marsden has been a writer for more than eight years. He has covered film, politics and culture for regional newspapers and online publications. Marsden holds a B.A. in theater arts with a concentration in performance.