Ethics are extremely important in the business world, and their absence invariably results in economic disaster and criminal and civil proceedings when the inevitable failure to conduct oneself ethically in the workplace ends in termination or even prison.
Within the workplace, a code of conduct mandating the proper use of ethical behavior is essential for the stability of the business. Employees need to know what is expected of them in terms of behavior towards each other and towards customers and business associates. Nothing erodes the viability of an enterprise quicker and more assuredly than corruption and unethical behavior. Employees should know that they can trust each other and depend upon their superiors to act in an appropriate manner. They should know that, when confronted with a moral dilemma, they will be rewarded for choosing the ethical option and rejecting the unethical one. Executives need to know they can trust staff, and subordinates need to see that the behavior to which they are being held is similarly mandated above their pay grades.
Within the broader business community, it is hard to survive in a competitive environment when a company is viewed as unethical. Suppliers and customer alike will be hesitant to form long-term relationships if there is an aura of moral corruption involved. Additionally, unethical behavior is occasionally also illegal, and a criminal investigation, followed by a civil suit, is not a good development for a company hoping to remain competitive and profitable.
Ethics is not only the proper approach to business and to workplace conduct, it is smart business. A business world without ethics would be anarchic and unreliable, and would involve many ruined reputations and lives. Integrity is at the core of a free market system, and when it is absent, entire sectors of an economy can suffer. Witness, for example, the devastation to the entire country of unethical business practices in the financial and accounting sectors. The costs to the taxpayers is in the billions, and confidence in vital industries is gone.