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Generally, ethics is a branch of philosophy concerned with the meaning of all aspects of human behaviours. Ethics in business is about knowing the difference between right and wrong and choosing to do what is right. For instance, an organisation’s culture sets standards for determining the difference between good and bad decision-making.

As a matter of fact, Business ethics is otherwise known as corporate ethics which is a form of applied ethics or professional ethics that examines the ethical and moral principles and problems that arise in a business environment. For a business organisation to develop properly, an important aspect of organisational strategy and management must establish a strong sense of ethics and develop a code of conduct that can stand the test of time and provide an anonymous way to report ethical problems.

There are four elements that make ethical behaviour conducive within an organisation: a written code of ethics and standards, ethics training to executives, managers and employees, availability for advice on ethical situations and systems for confidential reporting. Embedded in business ethics is accounting ethics. For professionals such as journalists, accountants, auditors and other professionals, it is important for them to recognise the ethical implications of their professional decision-making and this is a component of education, individual reflection and experience over time.

For example, a journalist published a false story about a celebrity to gain traffic to the news website, which may result in unethical practice for the journalist. In this case, an ethical journalist recognises the damaging effect of such a story, hence he or she must maintain an ethical code of reporting. Looking at the aspect of finance for a business organisation, the roles of accountants and auditors cannot be overemphasised.

Before now, finance ethics was somehow overlooked just because issues relating to finance were often addressed as matters of law rather than ethics. For example, fairness in trading practices, trading conditions, financial contracting sales practices, consultancy services, tax payments, internal audit, external audit and executive compensation are within the purview of finance and accounting.

Indeed, some of the corporate ethical abuses in the world of accounting may include creative accounting, earnings management, misleading financial analysis, insider trading and securities fraud. We cannot hide from the fact that many professionals these days now overemphasised monetary gains at the expense of good ethical and moral practices even in the faces of executive manipulations.

Finally, the only way out is to return to the drawing board to appreciate the principle of transparency, good communication network, open-door policy and corporate governance practices for both professionals and business organisations. Expunge divide and rule system in business organisations. It is only then, going concerned symptoms of any business organisation can be eliminated.

Ogunyinka Sunday writes from Lagos.

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