INTRODUCTION

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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