The study of what standards businesses should observe in their dealings over and above compliance with the letter of the law. This covers questions such as fair dealing with their labour force, customers, suppliers, and competitors, and the impact of their activities on the environment, public health. And animal welfare. If a good reputation helps to gain and retain business, ethical conduct need not necessarily conflict with profit, but there are bound to be cases where it does. Particularly difficult questions of business ethics arise in multinational firms, where practices such as gifts to officials, which are essential to doing business at all in some countries, are regarded as criminal in others.
Reference: Oxford Press Dictonary of Economics, 5th edt.
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