May 09, 2014
Utilitarian Ethics and the Environment
Business ethics concerning the environment has become a major concern for businesses operating in modern-day society. Globalization and technology has placed extreme pressure on businesses to succeed at the cost of our world’s natural resources. Conversely, the internet and social media are increasing the public awareness on the negligent business practices and wastefulness. While business has a primary obligation to its shareholders, should utilitarian ethics influence businesses to act on their obligation to maintain environmental standards at the cost of their profits?
Utilitarianism dictates that one must make decisions based on the consequences (the greatest good for the greatest amount of people). Using utilitarian methodology, Bentham believed that the environment possess no intrinsic value and therefore businesses may exploit the environment as long as consumer pleasure was being met. Many companies that harm the environment only do so because it’s necessary to satisfy our needs. Most consumers and shareholders want the best product for the best price. Environmental considerations are frequently viewed as a barriers to profitability. They are viewed as necessary evils, costs to be minimized or regulations with which to comply. (Freeman 2008) However, with today’s social media accessibility and on demand NEWS reports of unethical treatment of the environment has a negative effect on the reputation of the brand name and therefore results in lower profit margins. It is possible for a company to lose some or all profits in an attempt to protect the environment. When this happens the pleasure quotient decreases and therefore becomes unethical to impose environmental restrictions at the cost of consumer/shareholder pleasure.
Businesses damage the environment with they consume natural resources and dispose of the by-products. Air...