Global Ethics and Business: A Philosophical Approach

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16 November 2015

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Virtue Ethics


       When analyzing business decisions and practices, people tend to employ a particular moral framework. Often, some people do not know whether they are employing an ethical framework. To understand the nature of some decisions and practices, there is a need to consider ethical frameworks such as utilitarianism, justice, ethics of virtue and deontology (Becker 2000). This essay describes, explains, analyzes and evaluates a business issue that raises ethical concerns according to the ethics of virtues. The issue is discussed in the light of virtue of ethics philosophers, Macintyre, Nussbaum and Sen. The case chosen is that of Apple’s working conditions in the Far East, which have raised concerns across the world.

       Virtue ethics emphasize on the role of character and virtue, rather than one’s duty (Daluka 2001). According to Aristotle, a virtuous person is the one who had ideal characters. This branch of philosophy does not aim at identifying universal characteristics. On the contrary, it aims at how people should live, what constitutes a good life, and what are proper social and family values (Daluka 2001).

Ethical issue

       Apple, a U.S firm, is struggling to maintain its brand image after negative publicity. The company hit the news headlines for mistreating its employees working in the Far East (Thiroux 2009, p.3). The employees complained of poor pay, long working hours, and unhealthy working conditions. The CEO, Tim Cook, issued a directive to carry out investigations in order to inter claims of unethical trading practices (Swanton 2011, p.109). The media attention has led to a negative press that can tarnish Apple’s Brand image permanently. A movement known as Occupy Wall Street has increased people’s awareness, meaning that companies that do not show genuine commitment to mitigate conditions risks (like that facing Apple) will lose their trust among the people. Apple’s actions raise ethical concerns because those acts deprive worker’s essential rights (Meyer 2012, p.57).

Analysis of Apple’s case in light with the three philosophers

       Amartya Sen views virtue as achievement. With regards to Sen’s view, it can be argued that Apple’s actions are contrary to virtue ethics because the company does not grant their employees a chance to exercise freedom. Apple managers undermine worker’s capabilities, which results to a feeling of inferiority. The employees cannot choose different ways of living because their freedom is curtailed by the actions of Apple managers. According to (Sen 1977, p.456) equality in the society is a very important virtue. From the case given above, it is clear that some Apple employees suffer while others continue to enjoy life. This is unethical, and it means that Apple managers lack virtues like integrity, duty of care, justice and prudence. This hinders Apple workers’ achievement resulting to poor performance and conflict of interests.

       Alasdair McIntyre’s defines virtue in three parts. He sees virtue as a practice which is in line with socially established cooperative human activities. Following this criterion, Apple is practicing actions that cannot be accepted in the society. That is why the Occupy Wall Street Movement opposes Apple’s actions. This is a clear indication that the managers lack virtues, and their actions are immoral. Virtues as those qualities that help a person make moral judgments (McIntyre 2013, p.56). Apple is unable to make moral judgments; thus the company is unethical in its dealings.

       Martha Nussbaum argument seems to be the best framework for analyzing Apple’s ethical questions. According to (Nussbaum 1993, p.45) there are necessary conditions for a just society, which are in the form fundamental entitlements for all people. She argues that failure to secure these entitlements is a violation of justice and human dignity. Apple Inc. goes contrary to these teachings. The corporation undermines human capabilities such as good health, security from assault, practical reason, and emotional feelings.

       From the analysis, it can be noted that Apple Inc. is acting unethically because it disregards virtues. To solve the issue, Apple Inc. managers ought to consider the teachings of the three philosophers to mitigate the risk of lost reputation and tarnished brand image (Doris 2002).

Solution to the problem

       Apple Inc. managers ought to consider ethics in their value chain. The only way of solving the problem is by adhering to principles of virtue ethics. Such principles include; fortitude, prudence, temperance and justice. This way, Apple will safeguard its brand name and gain trust of the entire society.


Becker, H. (2000), ‘Linking management behavior to ethical philosophy—an empirical investigation’, Academy of Management Journal, vol.27, no.1, 166-175.

Daluka.F.S.(2001),‘Global Ethics and Business: A Philosophical Approach’, Cambridge University Press.

Doris, J. M. (2002). Lack of character: Personality and moral behavior. Cambridge University Press.Macintyre, A. (2013), ‘A Short History of Ethics: a history of moral philosophy from the Homeric age to the 20th century’, Routledge.

Nussbaum, M. (1993), ‘The quality of life’, Oxford University Press.

Meyer, H. (2012), ‘When the cause is just’, Journal of Business Strategy, vol.20, no.4, pp.27-31.

Swanton, C. (2011), ‘Virtue ethics: A pluralistic view’.

Sen, A. K. (1977), ‘Rational fools: A critique of the behavioral foundations of economic theory’, Philosophy & Public Affairs, pp.317-344.

Thiroux, J. P. (2009), ‘Ethics: Theory and practice’.

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