If you were to consider great examples of an oxymoron, business and morality would have to be right up there at the top of the list. The reason is simple: business in its purest form is all about trying to make as much money as possible and morality only enters into the picture when people allow their own emotions and morals to enter into the picture. That said, there are good reasons for businesses to engage in moral behavior. Here’s what you need to know:
Pure capitalism is designed to maximize profits while minimizing losses. This means that in a pure capitalist system, companies would have the least number of safety precautions possible and pay the lowest amount of money to their employees they could possibly get away with. The reason for this is that capitalism at its purest form has nothing to do with morality. In fact, in a pure capitalist system, business and morality would probably never meet.
It Makes for Good Business to Add Morality
However, as noted above, there is a good reason for a business to consider adding morality to their bag of tricks – because it makes for good business. In essence, business and morality do go together in one way – public relations. Businesses that hope to make sales to the public need one of two things. Either they need a captive market (i.e. a monopoly or a cartel) or they need the public to like the company more than their competition. Now while a free market will allow even a morally reprehensible business to make some sales to the public simply by maintaining prices which are lower than that of their competitors, that same business could make even more money by combining morality with their business.
How to Combine Business and Morality
They say that all is fair in love and war. To that list, one should generally add the word business as in “all is fair in love, war and business.” That’s because business is in essence a war – a war for the hearts and minds of your customers, who presumably have a choice of where to go with their business (this is why monopoly companies rarely have good customer service by the way – because they know that people who need what they have to sell will buy from them anyway since there is no choice). Therefore, when in business, one must combine business and morality.
You can do this in a variety of ways. For example, a business wishing to engage in morality will ensure that their employees are paid fairly and that they source their raw materials from places which treat people fairly (Starbucks is a good example of this – offering health insurance to their employees, above minimum wage pay and sourcing from fair trade coffee growers).
Be Community Minded
Another way to go about combing business and morality is to be community minded. This may mean that the business sponsors a local school baseball team for example. Or perhaps your business sponsors low income projects of another kind (for example, an expensive restaurant may donate all leftovers to a homeless shelter and a drug manufacturer may donate their medicine to poor people who can’t afford it and don’t have insurance).
Don’t Use Religion
However, one area where businesses can get themselves into trouble when they try to engage in combining business and morality is when they use religion for the purpose. Mind you, there is nothing wrong with donating to religious charities, however when using religious morality as an exclusionary tactic (i.e. we only hire people who conform to our faith values and worship at our churches because we believe that all others are immoral), it will inevitably backfire because of laws preventing such discrimination and because of public backlash.