Written by: Nicole Hamilton
Business Ethics is typically a class taken during college studies or during onboarding at a new company. In the simplest terms, business ethics are the moral guidelines under which we conduct business in the workplace and our relationships with clients and customers. When customers trust a business and invest in a brand, they expect a certain level of honesty, transparency and service to the smallest detail. For example, Starbucks is currently facing a 5 million dollar lawsuit for putting too much ice in cold drinks. The plantiff’s complaint is the amount of fluid advertised for the coffee is far more than what they actually receive – customers often walk away with almost half the advertised amount, the lawsuit alleges.
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“Starbucks is advertising the size of its Cold Drink cups on its menu, rather than the amount of fluid a customer will receive when they purchase a Cold Drink — and deceiving its customers in the process,” the lawsuit says.
While this may not be the most serious offense of an ethical dispute, it did turn into a legal and very public issue for the company. Going into iced beverage season, this can create a headache for thousands of stores as people now may overanalyze the amount of liquid each time they order a drink. Even when a good employee has a clear sense of right and wrong, it can be difficult to know what is ethical in a given situation. Business ethics always involve weighing potential consequences of one’s actions for other people. Questions arise such as: What will my boss think? Is this fair for customers? Who else will this affect in the workplace?
Business Ethics boil down to daily and personal choices every day in the workplace. In most situations of ethical breaching within organizations, the ones who acted unethically tend to believe they will not be discovered. The saying that a good person does good deeds when no one is looking also applies to people making ethical workplace choices. People who are ethical commit to business ethics even when they feel they have the opportunity to cut corners in a way that won’t get traced back to them.