In this reflection journal, I will talk about Milton Friedman’s philosophy of business through examples of personal experience and industrial disasters. Milton Friedman’s view is ‘The social responsibility of a business is to increase its profits’ (Friedman 1970). This may seem a little narrow-minded, but I think he means for a business to survive and generate profit it must care about the shareholders, society, customers, employees and environment. Ethics and Sustainability are important ingredients in a successful business. With these in mind, a business can be successful.
My understanding of ethics in business is right or wrong, good or bad in a business situation, obligation, rights, using amoral logical reasoning process in business. Business ethics help business people to approach moral problems more systematically and with better tools, help to make changes for the better. Through my weekly learnings, I was horrified to hear the story of the Ford Pinto. Ford analysed what it would cost in legal fees to cover suing vs fixing the Ford Pinto, so it was safe to drive. The Pinto was not a safe car to drive but, Ford still released it.
An unethical business disaster which happened on 24 April 2013 in Bangladesh, was the Rana Plaza Collapse. This incident killed more than 1000 and injured more than 2500 people. The inspection teams reported that the building was inspected for safety, and cracks were discovered in the structure. The garment business advised their staff they should continue to work and ignored the safety risks. (Manik & Yardley, 2013)
At my previous role I saw a few unethical issues in the business. One being favouritism, which affected a few employees. During the last few years I spent half my working week working from home and only working part-time hours. Management didn’t see much of me but, I was working harder than I was doing full time hours. Doing a full-time role in part-time hours stretched me to the limits, but my efforts were never recognised. It always was the few favourites in the office who managers recognized for their efforts. At most other organisations’ performance reviews are undertaken giving an opportunity for all to receive awards and appreciation of hard work.
I believe companies should care about their employees. I have read that KMPG have some great rewards and benefits they offer their staff. Such as Life style benefits, salary packaging, flexible work options, career breaks, paid paternal leave, the list goes on. My previous employer didn’t quite have as many employee benefits as KMPG. They did however have a share scheme in place which I was a part of. I was also lucky enough to work from home whenever I needed to.
SUSTAINABILITY IN BUSINESS
I learned that to be a sustainable business it needs to focus on the triple bottom line being economics, social and environment. All three need to be focused on equally or it would not be considered as a sustainable business. An example of this is the industry disaster that affected the environment and living things was the Minamata disease. First discovered in Minamata city in Kumamoto prefecture, Japan in 1956. Chisso Corporation’s chemical factory released Methylmercury in the industrial wastewater causing severe mercury poisoning to wildlife and humans. Symptoms include: ataxia, numbness in the hands and feet, general muscle weakness and damage to hearing and speech. In extreme cases, insanity, paralysis and death. The substance that the factory was releasing was toxic. (Yokoyama 2018, pp8). The victims sued the president and he was imprisoned for causing death and serious bodily harm.
At my previous employer we always looked at ways we could save on resources. Whether it was through furniture, paper & stationery supplies. To control wastage and mixing of paper and non-recyclables we removed normal bins from desks and just had recycle bins. When this was introduced it helped control and reduce our non-recyclable wastage. We also bought second hand furniture which looked great in our office as it kept to the 70’s style we had through the office.
I have learned that sustainability and ethics in business is all about businesses using resources without compromising and preserving the environment of the future generations. Also, businesses are forced to care about society if they want to make a profit. Producing products or services that changes their lives for the good. As Milton Friedman put it “There is one and only one social responsibility of business – to use it resources and engage in activities designed to increase its profits so long as it stays within the rules of the game, which is to say, engages in open and free competition without deception or fraud.” (Friedman, 1970 pg. 178) Namely, I think Milton Friedman means businesses only have one purpose that is to generate profit all whilst being ethical to society, not exceeding use of resources, producing products that are high quality, and not to mislead customers in any way.