What is the Current State of Business Ethics?

By Linda Fisher Thornton

I met with faculty members and students at Plymouth State University on October 3rd on the topic of “Decoding the Complexity of Doing the Right Thing.” They had lots of questions, including the one answered in this video, “What it the Current State of Business Ethics?” This is a question that is ‘top of mind’ for many people as this year draws to a close.

The media coverage of ethical failures makes it appear that ethics in business is getting worse. Is that really what’s going on, or is there more to the story? 


Let me know your thoughts after you watch the video.

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  1. Dennis, it definitely has been a divisive period in our history. I think that ethical awareness (or at least interest in ethics and values) is at a higher level than before due to the vastly different leader perspectives we are hearing – about what our ideal future should look like. In the best case scenario, we would see this interest lead to better conversations that would lead to positive change.


  2. Cam, that is a great question to explore – “What factors influence the choice about which of the paths to take?” I look forward to blogging about it in the future when I have some insights for you.


  3. I hope you and your family had a great Christmas and that you are getting ready for 2017 to continue your much needed work. I am hopeful that things will get better as you forecast, but I think it is going to take a much longer time than either of us would like to see. This last election period brought out the worst in this country and I lost all confidence in those institutions that I held sacred for my entire life. The rule of law has been diminished along with all accountability of our leadership. Overall the world continues in a downward spiral and evil continues to maintain an upper hand in the majority of things that are visible around the world. I pray everyday that this will change Transparency International new rankings (2015) of the most corrupt countries in the world has the US now down around 16 which is a big slip from the year before. http://www.transparency.org/cpi2015 . This data is worth watching going forward to see if we continue to slip further down the ladder and if the rule of law in the US is restored under the incoming administration. If not, we are in for some rough times ahead.


  4. Linda, your video addressed an important reality and I agree with your comments (but I find that I agree with you a lot in all of your posts). Thank you for your contribution to the dialogue about ethics and values. What’s interesting to me about your observation is the underlying question, “What factors most influence the often unconscious choice to follow one or the other of the two paths?” I am very interested in your thoughts about the answer to that question — and I think its answer makes a powerful contribution to the discussion of business ethics.

    As leaders choose the path that they decide to follow, perhaps they do not consciously reflect enough on who they are, what they believe, and what they want the world to become. Perhaps it is easier to make incremental “profit-oriented” decisions than it is to hold oneself accountable to a formal set of standards, values, and obligations.

    Thanks again for your thoughtful contribution to the application of abstract concepts to the real world in which we all live.


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