Golden Rule and Business Ethics

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Compiled by Danny Gillis


  1. Introduction
  2. Business Ethics Websites
  3. Books
  4. About the Author

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Attention to ethics is critical during times of change – times like those faced by most businesses today. The global economy, e-commerce, corporate mergers, diversification and the emergence of a vast array of new products – these are all examples of the fundamental changes occurring in today's business world. These changes and the need for business leaders to respond to them from a sufficiently humane and enlightened standpoint have created a whole new realm of interest: the field of business ethics.

The term "business ethics" has only recently been coined but the recognition of the need for ethics in business goes back many years. An early example of this recognition was the Golden Rule Stores that sprang up in the Western United States in the early 1900s. In the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, famous American entrepreneurs such as J.C. Penney, Samuel Jones and Arthur Nash made the Golden Rule an integral policy in their companies.

In recent years, the concept of business ethics has gained increased prominence, partly because of a number of high-profile corporate scandals, but also because of the keen and genuine interest being shown by managers who want to conduct their business in an ethical fashion.

Over the past decade, businesses and governments as well as consumer and corporate watchdogs have been developing ethical approaches to doing business. Business ethics is now widely discussed and debated; it is being taught in universities, written about in business and mainstream journals, and developed into company policy.

The Golden Rule is sometimes cited as a guiding principle in many of these approaches. In researching this document, I was pleasantly surprised to learn that there are thousands of business ethics websites. I was also surprised to learn how often the Golden Rule is mentioned on these websites.

One researcher suggests that the Golden Rule remains the most common method to resolve ethical dilemmas. More often, however, the Golden Rule is the implicit ethic that underlies and supports codes of good business conduct and responsible consumption.

The websites presented in this document are offered as a service to all who are interested in delving further into the field of business ethics.

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2.  Business Ethics Websites

More than 50 websites are listed here, subdivided in six categories: History, Services (for business), Research, Practical Application, Faith-Based Perspectives and Golden Rule Applications. These particular sites were chosen in order to present a diversity of approaches to business ethics. Websites from all over the world are featured here. A few sites are included in two categories because of their varied content.

Not all of these websites contain references to the Golden Rule. Sites that specifically discuss the Golden Rule in relation to business ethics are marked by asterisks.

2.1   History

American context: These websites outline the history of the Golden Rule's application to business ethics in the United States: **
(A history of American Golden Rule entrepreneurs) **
("The Golden Rule in Business" [classic book written in 1923])

** Websites that specifically discuss the Golden Rule in relation to business ethics

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2.2   Services

Educational services: These sites offer educational and other services to businesses and stakeholders.
(Includes a corporate integrity check-up)
(See section: "A21: Reinventing Accountability for the 21st century")
(A Canadian ethics centre)
(Features a broad range of excellent resources)

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2.3   Research

a) General resources: The following websites offer numerous possibilities for students, teachers, journalists and business managers who wish to research the area of business ethics: **
(An excellent introduction to the subject)
(Ethics in the workplace)
(Features a broad range of excellent resources)

b) Introduction to business ethics: This site offers a primer on how business ethics is taught in management courses (includes a Golden Rule section). **

c) Articles: These websites offer a wide variety of articles in the field of business ethics.
(An online business ethics magazine)
(Business for Social Responsibility)

** Websites that specifically discuss the Golden Rule in relation to business ethics

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2.4   Practical Application

a) Treatment of the customer: These websites promote an ethical treatment of the customer.
(The Canadian Marketing Association)

b) Ethical consumption: These websites promote ethical consumption.
(Co-op America)
(Focuses on the issue of child labor)
(The UK's leading alternative consumer organization)

c) Ethical investment: These websites promote ethical investment.
(Good introduction to socially responsible investing)
(Features over 10,000 pages on ethical investment)
(The investment policy of the Lutheran Church of Finland)

d) Ecology: Featured here are two corporate websites that promote business ethics in relation to ecological sustainability and a third that reports on the disastrous results of environmental mismanagement.
(An international carpet company)

e) Codes of ethics: These websites offer guidance on preparing a business code of conduct as well as examples of codes of ethics that have been developed by specific companies.
(Bell Canada Enterprises)
(United Parcel Service [UPS])
(ITC [a large Indian corporation]) **
(Creating a code of ethics for your organization) **
(Resolving Workplace Conflict by Customizing the Golden Rule [book])
(The Canadian Marketing Association)

f) Corporate social responsibility: These sites focus on corporate social responsibility and the relationship between business and sustainability.
(A resource guide for corporate social responsibility)
(Industry Canada) nac/DS/csr-en.asp
(Corporate social responsibility overseas)
(See "social responsibility" section)

** Websites that specifically discuss the Golden Rule in relation to business ethics

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2.5   Faith-Based Perspectives

Linking faith and business ethics: These sites offer reflections on business ethics from various faith traditions.
(A Christian perspective)

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2.6   Golden Rule Applications

In-depth application of Golden Rule: these sites offer in-depth discussion on the application of the Golden Rule to business ethics. **
("The Golden Rule in Business" [classic book written in 1923]) **
(History of American Golden Rule entrepreneurs) **
(Best-selling book on business ethics)

** Websites that specifically discuss the Golden Rule in relation to business ethics

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3.  Books

There are numerous books focusing on the Golden Rule and business ethics. Four are featured here. Please note that each website will enable you to order the featured book.

3.1  Resolving Workplace Conflict by Customizing the Golden Rule
By Rochelle Sjolseth **
This training manual helps companies develop their own Golden Rule and code of ethics.

3.2  The Golden Rule in Business
By Arthur Nash **
Published in 1923, this classic volume outlines the philosophy of Arthur Nash, one of America's best-known Golden Rule entrepreneurs.

3.3  The Golden Rule
By Jeffrey Wattles **
This excellent volume on the Golden Rule contains a chapter on the history of American Golden Rule entrepreneurship. The chapter is entitled, "The Fatherhood of God and the Brotherhood of Man".

3.4  There's No Such Thing as Business Ethics
By John Maxwell **
Maxwell argues that the Golden Rule is the only rule that matters in business and in living.

** Websites that specifically discuss the Golden Rule in relation to business ethics

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4.  About the Author

Danny Gillis is a freelance writer living in Nova Scotia, Canada. He spent three years as a lay member of Scarboro Missions working among the Manobo tribal people of the southern Philippines.

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Published by Scarboro Missions (Toronto, Canada)
Copyright © Scarboro Missions 2006


Scarboro Missions encourages the reproduction and use of this document for educational purposes for limited distribution. For permission to reproduce this document for commercial use or large-scale distribution, contact Paul McKenna at tel. 416-261-7135 ext. 296 or e-mail

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