Christianity contains an extensive collection of teachings, primarily those contained in the New Testament, which deals with the ethical side of running a business. Within businesses, companies usually have a main aim of making as large a profit as possible, and can sometimes use ways of doing so that could be considered as being immoral, for example employing child labour, damaging the environment or using blackmail and bribery.
Within businesses there are many people involved, such as the employees, the stakeholders, the shareholders and the directors.Between these people, many conflicts can occur, and everybody cannot be made happy, e. g. if employees were given higher wages, the company manager would make less profit.
Business ethics are partly created to limit such conflicts of interest whilst promoting harmonization (Henry Sidgwick). Of course, the manager of a business does not want to make too much sacrifice, but also often does not wish to be unethical, in which case in may be possible the come up with a third midway or alternative option. Rushworth Kidder refers this to as a ‘trilemma’.To help decide what is ethical and what is not, Christians have created their own code of moral business running, with rules such as ‘See that shareholders are kept informed of all major happenings affecting the company’ and to ‘Not tolerate any form of bribery, extortion or other corrupt or corrupting practices in business dealings’. There are various examples of things that companies have done which Christians would consider unethical. One famous example if the Nestle baby milk scandal. This involved Nestle convincing mothers in the third world that their breast milk was unsuitable for their babies and that bottle milk would be healthier.
They promised ‘modernization and heightened success’ through media and publicity stunts, and gave free bottle milk samples to mothers. Whilst using this, their breast milk dried up, resulting in their children dying once they could no longer afford to buy the bottle milk. This caused 35,000 deaths whilst boosting Nestle’s profit on infant formula by 72%. Christians would not consider it ethical to make money by potentially killing infants. They believe that life is valuable and we should do our best to preserve it, and not deliberately harm others to benefit ourselves.It is taught that we should not be greedy and that everybody should be equal, as practised by very religious Christians such as monks and nuns.
Therefore, businesses should be concerned with more than just profits. It is thought businesses should have a ‘social conscious’ and therefore help the poor, ‘you shall not harden your heart or shut your hand from your needy brother. But you shall surely open your hand to him…
. ‘ Therefore many Christians think it only right to set aside a portion of the profits made to give to the poor.Help should also be given in the form of given financing and grants to less fortunate institutes such as under financed schools, and offering internships to less fortunate people who cannot find employment.
Another example was the 1984 disaster of Bhopal, where a plant leaked methyl isocyanate gas. This is thought to have killed 3,800 people, caused 40 permanent disability, and 2,800 other partial disability and is still causing harm today. The area of the disaster has never been properly cleared up, and until it is, the harm caused to the people living in that area cannot stop.Their water is contaminated, as is their air and even the women’s breast milk.
Christians would once again see it as immoral that proper safety checks were not run on the plant, putting people’s lives in danger, not to mention that the company have not properly repented for what they caused. Christians felt that it was their place to help make the victims of this more comfortable and give them a better chance so created an International Medical Commission on Bhopal was formed, part of which was funded by Christian Aid, and more by United Council of Churches in Christ to help victims with respiratory disorders.Aside from people becoming hurt, the environment also suffered, which many Christians also disagree with. Although some believe that God gave humans the power to ‘subdue’ land and animals, therefore having all rule over them and using them for there own ends, believing that the environment has only instrumental value, the view that it has intrinsic value is becoming increasingly popular.Many Christians now hold the view that we are stewards of the Earth, caring for it for God, who was the creator, and should therefore look after it as best as possible, not destroy is for our own uses. Although it is unclear what the Bible means, it does show signs of wanting people to care for the environment, such as when soldiers were forbidden to cut down fruit trees, even though they were conducting a siege of an enemy’s city, and that it instructs farmers to rest their land every seventh year so as to prevent land depletion.
It is made clear that by God that ‘the land is Mine; for you are sojourners and residents with Me. ‘ Implying we have an obligation to respect the land. Also when running a business, it is a Christian’s aim to avoid discrimination of any minority groups regardless for example of ethnicity, age or gender. As the bible states, strangers should be treated the same as a friend, ‘shall strengthen him, whether he is a stranger or a native, so that he can live with you. ‘ (Leviticus 23:35) so nobody should be unfairly discriminated against.Employees should also be treated fairly, as the Bible states, ‘You shall not rule over him through rigorous labour’ so ethical guidelines should be put into place to protect employees, for example from exploitation.
In line with this, Christians would not agree with moving a company over seas so that labour is cheaper, for example using children or having no safety measures in place, because employees should be respected and protected and not taken advantage of or treated unfairly.