Describe the difference between ethics and the law

Business Ethics

Learning Activity 1

After doing all the readings (both themes) and watching the various video clips, think about what ethics is. Before you start writing for your first Learning Activity, reflect on your understanding of what ethics is, and how you could describe the difference between ethics and the law. Your first learning activity will require that you respond in writing to the following scenario:

Your boss has asked that you give a written presentation detailing the major difference between ethics and the law. He is concerned that, although a certain practice is not illegal, it might be considered unethical by your customers (if they ever found out). At the same time, however, the practice will give your company a significant competitive advantage. There is no requirement that the company divulge the fact that it is engaging in this practice, and there is no reason to believe that anyone outside the company would ever find out. Don’t get bogged down in factual questions or issues, but for purposes of this Learning Activity, you may assume that the ethical issue is one of “humane” sourcing of meat for a large restaurant chain.

Your boss wants to understand how law and ethics relate to one another, and how one truly “knows” whether something is unethical. He asks whether corporate compliance with the law is all that is required, or whether individual ethical considerations must also guide corporate action. He directs you to prepare a short memo summarizing the difference between law and ethics, addressing the above concerns and giving him advice as to what course of action the company should pursue in this case, and why. If the law does not require the use of only ‘humane’ sources of meat (whatever that means), does ethics require more? Why or why not?

After doing the readings and watching the various video clips, note in your memo what questions still remain outstanding. Feel free to supplement your memo with any additional [properly cited] material you uncover in your research and additional readings.

Post your memo by starting a new thread in the discussion section and pasting the text of your memo there. The memo should be at least 250 words. Please DO NOT attach your memo as a separate document which must be downloaded before anyone can read it.

Learning Activity 2

Prior to taking this course, what opinion did you have as to any ethical requirement for corporations to comply with ethical standards over and beyond legal ones? Having read and observed the material provided under this 2nd theme – “Why Study Business Ethics?” – has this changed your mind? You will see that there remains a divergence of opinion. Some believe that business should focus just on making a profit; others are convinced that business must also consider what is the ethically right thing to do, in the pursuit of their business concerns.

Which view do you think is correct? And why? Make sure you discuss the idea of the Corporation as (or as not as) a “moral person.”

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