Companies exist for the sake of profits. However, they are also members of society. Most companies face an ethical dilemma regarding environmental conservation. Their duty to society requires them to preserve the environment, while they can choose to ignore that and save money for investments that will reap profits. Nevertheless, companies can use some ethical philosophies, including Ethical Egoism, Utilitarianism, Mohism, and Benevolence, to decide whether they should conserve the environment or save money.
Ethical egoism states that one should make moral decisions based on their self-interests (Ivlampie, 2017). Henry Sidgwick, the philosopher who introduced ethical egoism, compared it to utilitarianism. Since utilitarianism is focused on the greatest pleasure, Sidgwick claimed that ethical egoism was focused on maximizing individual pleasure. Thus, ethical egoism requires companies to focus on saving money and investing it to reap profits instead of conserving the environment. In this case, the company should focus on profits since they maximize the firm’s pleasure. Also, environmental conservation gradually chips away at the company’s profits and does not have much return on investment. Since ethical egoism requires the company to focus on its self-interests, the firm will focus on the reason for its existence – profits. Thus, ethical egoism makes the company ignore its duty to society and focus on improving its revenue at the expense of the environment.
Jeremy Bentham is the philosopher who introduced utilitarianism – an ethical theory that bases moral actions on the greatest possible outcomes for everyone involved (Scarre, 2020). Thus, utilitarianism requires the company to choose whether environmental conservation or saving money will make the stakeholders happy. Regarding the company’s duty to itself, the involved parties are the stakeholders and employees. The only party involved in the company’s duty to society is the public. Thus, utilitarianism requires the company to make an ethical decision that will make the stakeholders, employees, and the public happy. In this case, the best decision would be to conserve the environment and save profits. Environmental conservation will make the company socially responsible to the public, making them happy. Saving money will also make the stakeholders and employees happy as the profits will improve the company. The company should put some money aside for environmental conservation and save some cash from its revenue to invest and increase profits.
Mohism was introduced by Mozi, who believed that people should judge their morality based on caring for everyone. Thus, Mohism promotes impartial caring principles (Van Norden, 2018), where people should love everyone without distinctions. Consequently, the company should make an ethical decision about whether to conserve the environment or save money based on whether they impartially care for everyone involved. As described before, the parties involved in this ethical dilemma are the stakeholders, employees, and the public. Thus, Mohism requires the company to conserve the environment since it cares for the public. This is also because the company must care for the environment. On the other hand, Mohism requires the company to save money since it cares for its investors and employees. This is also because the company cares for its reason for existence – making money.
Confucius introduced benevolence and humanness. Benevolence requires one to master their moral life regardless of any outside impact (Eno, 2016). On the other hand, humanness requires one to base their moral actions on altruism – the quality of being selfless. Thus, the company should make an ethical choice whether to conserve the environment or save money based on the self-mastery of its moral obligations and selflessness. Consequently, benevolence and humanness require the company to conserve the environment and save money. Due to benevolence, the company should conserve the environment and save money to meet its moral obligations to society and itself. On the other hand, humanness requires the company to conserve the environment and save money since it is selfless and does not put the public’s or its interests first – the company values the public, its stakeholders, and its employees.
In conclusion, ethical egoism is the only ethical philosophy that requires the company to save money and ignore conserving the environment. Thus, Utilitarianism, Mohism, and Confucianism require the company to find a way to conserve the environment and save money. These actions should make the stakeholders, employees, and public happy. Also, they should be an act of impartial care. These decisions should meet the company’s moral obligations and be selfless.
Eno, R. (2016). Mencius, An Online Teaching Translation. Indiana University.retrieved October 30, 2022, from http://www.indiana.edu/~p374/Mengzi.pdf
Ivlampie, V. (2017). Ethical Egoism, a Failure of Moral Theories. LUMEN Proceedings, 1, 375-384.
Scarre, G. (2020). Utilitarianism. Routledge.
Van Norden, B. W. (2018). Fraser, Chris, The Philosophy of the Mòzǐ: The First Consequentialists. Dao: a Journal of Comparative Philosophy, 17(3), 421-427.