Business ethics – a specific subsystem of public morality and social ethics, partly coinciding with labor morality and with a particular sector of professional decency. In its essential and explicit content, it is connected with entrepreneurship as a type of management that occurs in the early industrial civilization in the era of the initial accumulation of capital and is based on private property, commodity-money relations and economic freedoms. Concerning the profit of the entrepreneur prevail productive-creative, rather than consumer-distributive motivation motives.
As a manifestation of the particular ethos of economic behavior and the “spirit of capitalism“, entrepreneurship was explored by M. Weber, V. Sombart, E.Trelch, H. Schmoller, T. Parsons. The image of entrepreneurship that developed thanks to these studies differed from the one that developed in the classical political economy, which considered the economic processes and the “economic man” in isolation from each other. Such a person was treated as a completely autonomous personality, an egoist, sometimes a “reasonable”, and a calculating rationalist. Sociology and theoretical ethics, in part, and modern economic theory tend to bridge the gap between economic processes and the personal factor. “Economic man” – and the entrepreneur turns out to be such in the first place – cannot but take into account social, including moral, norms. In the case when these standards are not taken from imitation or adaptation, but confidently, there is an entrepreneurial ethic, and the whole sum of life attitudes, value orientations, proper motivation forms a professional ethos of management.
Business activity, the market way of gaining income, carried out within the framework of legislation and observing the rules of “fair play”, have morally a positive value, since in this case the activity of an business is socially useful, and entrepreneurial income is associated with his organizational and creative efforts, with pay for competence, understanding of the situation, the burden of risk and individual responsibility. It does not follow from this that efficiency and utility are always morally justified. Moreover, the strategically effective itself depends on the compliance of businessman with the rules of “fair play” as a condition for long-term personal success and public effectiveness. It is in this sense that “it is profitable to be ethical.” Economists are not unanimous in their judgments on this issue. So, M.Fridman and his school consider morally admissible actions of a businessman if they are focused on the achievement of profit and do not come into conflict with legal restrictions. At the same time, F.Hayek and his followers believe that the norms and rules of “fair play”, standards of economic behavior should not be interpreted situationally because they have the character of unconditional behavior.
Legal obligations of the businessman (payment of taxes, performance of contracts, promissory notes, provision of certain working conditions and measures for environmental safety, requirements of fair competition, preservation of business reputation) receive additional value as a moral obligation, without which only legal regulation is an insufficient barrier from an unlawful and immoral behavior.
In addition to a completely natural desire for efficiency and profit, the entrepreneur has other motives of activity that have a moral meaning: the desire for self-realization, independence from the custody of various kinds, propensity to charity. Business ethics also regulate relations between entrepreneurs in diverse responsible communities – associations, guilds, corporations. These relationships envisage defending competitive positions, as well as solidarity ties, cooperative and organizational programs of activity. The latter is built on the principles of equality, trust, mutual respect, mutual assistance, and responsibility.
Studies of entrepreneurial ethics and business have been carried out since the beginning of the 20th century and have developed most in recent decades, which resulted in the publication of a significant number of fundamental and popular works, special journals, the formation of a network of research centers, the holding of many regional conferences and even a world congress (1996). Of particular interest are studies of the national specifics of the spirit of entrepreneurship, cultural and local models of entrepreneurial ethos, in which the different, often asymmetric configuration of fundamental values is revealed.