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Business Ethics

Ethical Commerce: Drawing a “Line in the Sand”

Every enterprise needs to operate in legally, fiscally and commercially responsible ways, and it needs to do this in working with all of its stakeholders in specific and consistent ways (that are frequently to do with the ways that policies and procedures are written). These stakeholders include shareholders, customers, suppliers and employees. Policy and procedure therefore needs to be developed around all of the commercial transactions that the organization engages in and how the enterprise markets or promotes itself (and its products and or services). In addition, policy is needed to ensure the openness and transparency of any significant interaction with a particular stakeholder group.

General ethical considerations involve standards of behavior, principles and moral values. In the commercial world, such standards apply to company relationships with every supplier (large and small) and every customer (of all sizes and types and whether long standing or only recently acquired). Hence, we should ideally think very carefully about the ways in which we deal with these external bodies and assess whether there is sufficient integrity and fairness in our approach.

Strict commercial guidelines

Although many companies develop methods and standards to regulate commercial interfaces and functions, the decisions are still, to a large extent, taken on the basis of judgments on particular matters, and these are still made by individuals. This has led some companies to establish quite strict commercial guidelines, laying out the principles to be followed by their employees in commercial matters.

In general terms, the aims of these principles are:

  • to ensure that the commercial decisions are made taking into account organizational interest and without any consideration of personal interests;
  • to ensure that the organization is perceived as a body that conducts its commercial relationships under conditions of formality, impartiality and equity.
  • to ensure that no individual is either tempted or given the freedom to compromise either themselves or, more importantly, the wider organization of which they are a part.

The featured video clip is a short excerpt from the ReadyToManage, Rapid Skill Builder eLearning program, Corporate Ethics: An RSB eLearning Course.

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About Dr. Jon Warner

Dr. Jon Warner is a prolific author, management consultant and executive coach with over 25 years experience. He has an MBA and a PhD in Organizational Psychology. Jon can be reached at

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About the Editor and Primary Author

Jon Warner

Jon Warner is an executive coach and management consultant and in the past has been a CEO in three very different companies. Read more

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