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Are Ethics and Profits Mutually Exclusive?

IN THE WAKE of scandals such as Libor, Wonga and now Tesco, it seems like some senior executives could perhaps be of the view that ethics and profits are not compatible. Early reports of Tesco’s expensive £263m mistake are that this serious breach of accounting standards emerged due to a small group of staff providing misleading information to auditors. If these allegations prove to be correct then it raises serious questions about the structures in place within the company to verify accounts.

As painful as end-of-year accounting and auditing can be, when lunch and other corporate expenses mount up but cannot be substantiated with receipts, the forensic inquiry by accountants that forms part of their ethical duty of “professional scepticism” is an important check and balance. Knowing how much a business is worth is one of the many fundamental public services that accounting provides, assuring the markets that a firm is worth what it says. This highlights, in my mind, why ethics and profits are not and should never be seen as mutually exclusive.

via Are ethics and profits mutually exclusive? – 04 Nov 2014 – Accountancy Age.

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2 CONVERSATIONS

  1. The real issue is not ethics and profits being mutually exclusive, it is that businesses don’t have an objective means to judge if their conduct is actually wrong. They may know that their conduct is illegal, but that is not the same as being wrong (For instance, it used to be illegal for homosexuals to wed but being illegal did not, in itself, make it wrong). Businesses need an objective moral standard by which to judge their actions.

    These scandals we keep seeing in the headlines are the inevitable result of a breakdown in society of moral knowledge. After all, if everything is relative and there really isn’t right and wrong, my only standard for morality is that I do whatever I want as long as I don’t get caught. However, I think we all know – deep inside our souls – that this just does not work.

    The most efficient answer is no longer popular, but it is that we need some objective and transcended moral standard. Only then will we be in a position to actually know that something is right or wrong.

  2. Ethics and profits are mutually exclusive. I know companies that are extremely ethical and make a ton of money. I know companies that are unethical and are stinking rich. The issue is more of which people are better to work for and with.

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