Summary of Just Business

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Elaine Sternberg has written an important, fascinating look at business ethics. Despite its academic presentation, it hooks you right away, and keeps you hooked. She is not fuzzy in her ethical analysis; there is no moral posturing to be found. This book is a practical decision-making guide for businesspeople. Sternberg builds an ethical framework that starts with the fundamental premise that the goal of business is to increase owner value. If an ethical issue relates to that goal, it’s one you must address. If not, it’s not your problem. Once you’ve identified an ethical dilemma that you must resolve, Sternberg guides you through a series of intellectual exercises that narrow your options, identify your constraints and ultimately help you arrive at the correct answer. getAbstract recommends this book as a seminal introduction to ethical decision making for business men and women that should be read by all and referred to often.

About the Author

Elaine Sternberg is an academic philosopher and international investment banker, and has been the head of successful businesses. She is now principal of a London-headquartered consultancy firm, and Research Fellow in Philosophy at the University of Leeds.



Business Ethics

To have a clear understanding of business ethics, you must first understand what business itself really is - and what it isn’t. Business is a distinctive activity, with its own objectives and guiding principles, so its conduct can’t be judged by the standards of other fields whose objectives are completely different. That doesn’t mean, however, that a separate "business ethic" should exist - it should not. Such a belief would destroy ethics and do no justice to business.

To assess business ethics, begin by examining purpose. This approach, which identifies and explains people’s activities by referring to their ends, aims, goals, objectives or purposes, is often called "teleological," from the root word, telos - Greek for "end." The same activity can be undertaken for completely different purposes. So, understanding the action - and its ethics - requires knowing its purpose. For example, if a young man knocks an old man down in the street, his objective could be to mug the old man, but it also could be to protect him from a mugger or to save him from an oncoming car.

What constitutes ethical conduct in business, as in every other area of life, ...

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