Do you believe most businesses in the United States follow strict ethical standards?

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One can certainly make the argument that no business can actually follow ethical standards because capitalism depends upon the exploitation of the worker. The worker produces, provides, and/or serves the products that company bosses and owners profit from. There is a strong argument to be made that strict ethics do...

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One can certainly make the argument that no business can actually follow ethical standards because capitalism depends upon the exploitation of the worker. The worker produces, provides, and/or serves the products that company bosses and owners profit from. There is a strong argument to be made that strict ethics do not fit in the framework of such an inherently oppressive system of surplus and luxury for a few and scarcity for the majority.

One may, however, make an argument that a business could participate in harm-reductive processes and practices that alleviate some of the inherent exploitation that comes from capitalism and civilization. In the United States, the businesses that mitigate the most harm caused by the capitalist system in which they operate are likely worker-owned co-ops, where workers are paid above living wages and products are sourced either locally or through paying international farmers and growers living-wage prices for their goods.

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While only certain aspects of morality are arguably ambiguous, it is difficult, especially in a capitalist, democratic society, to make a decision as to whether or not businesses are following ethical standards.

It's important to decide specifically what one means by "strict ethical standards"; topics such as environmentalism, employee wage/treatment, and general exploitation are ideas frequently thought about in terms of business morality.

First, in terms of employee wages, it's a good idea to look at how much people are making. Currently, about 4.3% of hourly paid employees are offered the federal minimum wage (or less) of $7.25. This makes up a 3.3 million Americans who are making at most $7.25 an hour. While 4.3% is certainly a low percentage (this percentage was nearly 10% higher in the late 70s, during the Carter-era), 3.3 Americans making an arguably unlivable wage seems extreme. Looking on the bright side, however, this would mean 95.7% of the hourly paid workers are making more than $7.25, with the average hourly wage being about $24. Whether or not any business should pay hard-working American citizens such a modest wage is, again, ambiguous.

It's important to also look at exploitation, particularly that of the Earth and workers. Brands such as Nestlé (whose CEO suggested, in a manner of speaking, that water is no more a human right than chips or candy bars), Hershey's, and Folger's aren't necessarily concerned about the ideas of Fair Trade; instead coffee and cocoa farmers are exploited and manipulated into "selling" their product to these corporations at a far lower price than they are actually worth. Consequently, impoverished countries remain impoverished and low-quality products are shipped out to the consumers. Not only are the smaller, more morally-aligned small businesses hurt by the influence of these massive corporations, but the farmers who provide us all with the chocolate, cocoa, and tropical fruits, et cetera, are given far less than they deserve. Fortunately, brands with the "Fair Trade" logo have to follow specific standards on how these goods are purchased.

The environment is also often threatened by large businesses acting greedily. By pumping toxic chemicals into the air, rather than running slightly-more-expensive green energy, that would, in time, do far more than pay for itself, pollution becomes a significant problem. In Bejing, for example, the level of toxic smog is 27 times higher than the recommended amount by the World Health Organization.

While many businesses cut corners in order to save money and maximize profits, a current trend of selfless profiteering is emerging; businesses can run quite morally by using green energy (Google pledges to be 100% powered by renewable energy), offering a higher minimum wage than the Federal wage (even Target aims to offer $15+ by 2020), providing a slave-and-exploitation-free approach to chocolate harvest (Tony's Chocolonely aims to completely alleviate cocoa-based poverty), so there is hope for businesses to act morally. As always, it is up to the consumer to choose the brands that act morally and support them through purchasing their products, thus giving them the power to continue their work!

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