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What are Normative Ethical Theories?

Normative ethics is defined as the study of ethical or moral value action. Under philosophical ethics, it is actually one of the major branches that queries the questions on how one is supposed to act in terms of morals. It commands the most attention in non-philosophical disciplines, since the sole purpose of normative ethical theories is to provide clarity and also to advocate the moral code of conduct. It helps to give out principles that have been proven and can be relied upon to determine what defines moral and what immoral behaviour. In the light of normative moral theories, they are controversial philosophical issues since they are abstract and are aimed at describing certain moral and ethical conduct.

Morality is the general values and beliefs attached to social processes that define what is both right and wrong for an individual or for the larger community.

On the other hand, ethics is the study of morality and the correlation of reason to give rise to a specific set of rules and principles that determine right or wrong for different occasions. Those principles are called ethical theories.

An ethical decision is characterised where:

  • there is an element of choice,
  • the matter has a significant effect on others

Normative theoriesare moral theories which seek to bring clarity to what good morals or generally the correct moral compass, i.e., they tell you how to act in order to behave ethically.

The normative ethical theories share some of the same structure based and concept properties. For instance, in normative moral theories, isolating a structure that contains a set of moral standards as well as general moral principles and moral principles and judgements is possible. Moral standards are the most general values under normative ethical theories. The difference that exists between the ethical or moral standards and moral principles is that moral standards provide criteria that leads to moral principles while moral principles are values that result from that. Moral principles are values whose main focus is overall actions, i.e., the ones that hold all the actions in a certain class are either good or bad.

A fair majority of the moral theories are based on values that act to determine whether an action is either positive or negative. Examples of classical theories include; Kantianism, utilitarianism as well as some forms of contractualism. As much debate that exists on the qualities that give actions or rules their ethical force, there are three or more points of view on how issues surrounding morals should be addressed. They include, virtue ethics whose main focus is on the character the person. On the other hand, there is deontological ethics as well as consequentialism which focuses on the actions’ state of the action or disposition rule. Both the rules and dispositions are classified in various forms.

Examples of Normative Ethical Theories

Virtue Ethics – the character inherited by the particular person as opposed to specific actions.

Consequentialism – also referred to as teleology. Leans towards the fact that the morality of an action is dependent on the actions results. Some consequentialist theories that differ in what they regard as valuable include, utilitarianism, state consequentialism, welfarism, situation ethics among others. Utilitarianism stands that an action is right if it make a majority of the people happy. State consequentialism states that any particular action is deemed right if it leads to general welfare through population growth and other ways. Welfarism leans towards the action that increases economic welfare.

Deontology – this theory is of the idea that decisions should be made based on the factors that surround rights and duties of a person. They include Categorical imperative, contractualism as well as natural rights. Categorical imperative by Immanuel Kant, relates morality to man’s rational capacity. Contractualism by John Rawls takes a stand that morals are inclusive of acts that man would generally consider without bias and natural rights theories by Robert Nozick hold that man is entitled to natural rights.

Relational ethics – relational ethics states that morality is influenced by experiences of empathy and compassion. This theory is by female theorists and most notably, Carol Gilligan. It places emphasis on the importance relationships to achieving ethic goals.

The normative ethical theories include: Egoism, Utilitarianism, Ethics of Rights and Justice, Ethics of Duty as explained below:

The term consequentialist accounts for the basis that a person’s conduct is the main determinant on any judgement made about whether a conduct is wrong or right. Utilitarianism is consequential as it determines if the results of an action are moral or immoral. Ethical egoism as well is consequential as it defined by the impact of an action on oneself. The main focus of ethical egoism is self-interest and not the larger interest of the people.

Non-consequentialist refers to the moral judgement based on the decision makers underlying motivation in making the decision. 

Corporate Social Responsibility is a business approach that contributes to sustainable development by delivering environmental as well as social and economic profits for stakeholders. With corporate social responsibility comes, human morality. Morality refers to the beliefs about what is wrong and what is right. Human beings have a moral responsibility for their actions since they directly affect the activities that they carry out. On the other hand, corporates have the responsibility for the overall sustainability with regard to the overall stakeholder groups in the particular corporation. The relation between the two, human and corporate, identifies that the companies are owned and run by individuals. Hence, an overlap between human morality and the corporate social responsibility.

The Relationship between Morality and Corporate Social Responsibility

Do only human beings have a have a moral responsibility for their actions? No they don’t. The moral responsibility in relation to corporate social responsibility is shared between the individuals that work for the corporation and the corporation itself collectively.

With that said, moral responsibility refers to the state or status of morally deserving praise or blame or punishment or reward for a particular action. Moral responsibility could be either as a result of good or bad. If the actions committed are positive, the person is given praise while if the actions are negative then the person is blamed or punished accordingly. The people that have moral responsibility for any particular actions are referred to as moral agents. They have the ability to reflect on the situation and make decisions on how they will act.

With moral responsibility comes virtues and positive values that need to be adhered to the letter. The moral responsibilities vary depending on the situations at hand. In a corporation, in multiple occasions, it is commonly argued that only individual human beings can be held accountable for all the actions of a corporation, narrowed down to the individual members. This is however not the case with corporate moral agency, this states that individuals cannot be solely held responsible for the actions of the entire corporation. Thus stating that the corporation can be held equally responsible for the actions affecting it. Corporations in the past have had to pinpoint certain individuals to hold responsible in the instances where some co values were violated or other particular clauses set by the company. With time, corporations have learnt to embrace the fact that the entire company has a role to play in whatever responsibility presented forth.

Corporate social responsibility has a few other categories that are employed in most of the modern day businesses and they include: Environmental efforts, Ethical labour practices, philanthropy and volunteering.

Volunteering involves the attending of events and not expecting any pay in return to the company or the employees. It plays a big role in the identifying of sincerity. The corporations thus get a platform to express interests as well as their concerns for particular issues as well as their support for others.

Philanthropy is almost the same as volunteering however, philanthropy involves the donation of money or other items to charities. Corporations have a lot of resources that could help to benefit the communities around.

Corporate Social Responsibility Categories

Ethical labour practices focus on the employee treatment. If corporations treat their employees with equity and well, they display a good example of corporate social responsibility.

Corporate social responsibility has sustainability attached to it. Sustainability is very vital not just for the people and the entire world but also for the success of business. Human beings have a major role to play in the success of any particular business being the man power and the brains behind all the activities that take place around the company. It also represents the policies and initiatives that a company commits to in order to run the activities with total honesty and transparency and in turn have an impact on social change to benefit everyone. Consumers are becoming more aware on the social issues affecting man globally. This has prompted the importance placed on the social responsibility to change and be taken with seriousness from consumer’s standpoint. The company’s strategy with regards to social responsibility has also become an important factor to consider.

Human moral responsibility is an important part of corporate social responsibility but not only humans should be held morally responsible for their actions but the corporations in their entirety.

Describe the four traditional normative ethical theories explaining which are consequentialist and which are non-consequentialist and why.

There are a number of theories suggested around the dominion of normative ethical theories. In this discussion, at least theory groups are focused on. They are namely virtue ethics, utilitarianism, contractualism and deontological ethics (Fritz Allhoff, 2011). All of the four normative ethical theories lies either in consequential or non-consequential categories of ethical theories. Consequentialist theory defines the wrongness or righteousness of an act by its consequences. Non-consequentialist theory explains wrongness or rightness of an act by its intrinsic properties and not on its consequences.

The four theories are described below, terming the consequalist and non-consequentialist and the supportive reasons.

  1. Virtue ethics

This  is an extensive terminology on virtue ethics. It emphasizes on the function of virtue and character in moral philosophy instead of focusing on a person’s duty or doing actions that will result in the right consequences (Fritz Allhoff, 2011). Mostly, virtue ethics will probably provide this kind of advice: “a person is supposed to act a virtuous person would act in the same circumstances.” Aristotle inspires various virtue ethics described a virtuous person as the one who possesses perfect character traits. Although the features generated from the internal natural character, they also require being natured. Nevertheless, they become stable as soon as they are established. For instance, a person who is always kind naturally, not because of his or the reasons of maximizing utility or fulfil his duty is deemed a virtuous person. Afar from deontological and consequentialism theories, virtue ethics do not mainly focus on identifying principles which can be used in any moral condition (Rex Bookstore, 2007). Therefore, virtue ethics lies under the non-consequential category

  1. Utilitarianism

Usually, utilitarianism is considered a consequentialism subject. Utilitarianism as an ethical theory suggesting that a good action is that which maximizes utility. The utility is described in many ways. It mainly breaks things down to more constraints and assumptions.

  • The utility concept also instrumentality is a concern with positive ends that can be attained by certain means.

  • The thought that individuals can evaluate and relate those effects like doing a cost analysis optimize and determine the highest good.

  • The suggestion that the greatest good results in particular abstract principle or situation, for example, happiness.

Utilitarianism is an ethical theory proposal that can justify and guide the rising political ideas which eventually turned out to be a democracy, economic rationalism and homo economicus (rational actor theory of economics).

  1. Contractualism

Broadly, it can suggest that morality is based on agreement or narrowly, refer to a specific view established in the past years T.M. Scanlon a Havard philosopher. This is a consequentialist ethical theory since it is based on the idea of a self-centred negotiation or agreement among two persons.

  1. Deontological Ethics

Deontology is a Greek term meaning duty or obligation. This is the normative ethical stand which determines an action’s morality by rules. At times it is defined as an obligation, duty / rule-based ethics since rules which bind a person to his responsibilities. Deontology is one type of normative theories concerning what choices are morally forbidden, permitted and required. It guides the choices of how people are to act as opposed to which choose and direct the kind of people we are and what we are supposed to be (William Ransome, 2016)Those that believe in deontological theories of morality are opposers of consequentialist. 

References

Alex C. Michalos, D.C.P. (2012) Citation Classics from the Journal of Business Ethics: Celebrating the First Thirty Years of Publication, illustrated edition, Berlin: Springer Science & Business Media.

Andrew Crane, D.M. (2016) Business Ethics: Managing Corporate Citizenship and Sustainability in the Age of Globalization, illustrated edition, oxford: Oxford University Press.

Fritz Allhoff, A.V. (2011) Business Ethics: Ethical theory, distributive justice, and corporate social responsibility, New York: SAGE Publications.

John Okpara, S.O.I. (2013) Corporate Social Responsibility: Challenges, Opportunities and Strategies for 21st Century Leaders, illustrated edition, Berlin: Springer Science & Business Media.

Rex Bookstore, I.. (2007) Business Ethics and Social Responsibility, Quezon City: Rex Bookstore, Inc.,.

Ronald Paul Hill, R.L. (2014) Handbook of Research on Marketing and Corporate Social Responsibility, Cheltenham: Edward Elgar Publishing.

Samuel O. Idowu, C.S.F.A.Y.M.M.E.J.N. (2014) Corporate Social Responsibility and Governance: Theory and Practice, illustrated edition, Berlin: Springer.

Vandekerckhove, D.W. (2012) Whistleblowing and Organizational Social Responsibility: A Global Assessment, revised edition, Farnham: Gower Publishing, Ltd.

William Ransome, C.S.F.P.o.L.a.D.I.I.f.E.G.a.L.C.S. (2016) Ethics and Socially Responsible Investment: A Philosophical Approach, Abingdon: Routledge. 

Alex C. Michalos, D.C.P. (2012) Citation Classics from the Journal of Business Ethics: Celebrating the First Thirty Years of Publication, illustrated edition, Berlin: Springer Science & Business Media.

Andrew Crane, D.M. (2016) Business Ethics: Managing Corporate Citizenship and Sustainability in the Age of Globalization, illustrated edition, oxford: Oxford University Press.

Fritz Allhoff, A.V. (2011) Business Ethics: Ethical theory, distributive justice, and corporate social responsibility, New York: SAGE Publications.

John Okpara, S.O.I. (2013) Corporate Social Responsibility: Challenges, Opportunities and Strategies for 21st Century Leaders, illustrated edition, Berlin: Springer Science & Business Media.

Rex Bookstore, I.. (2007) Business Ethics and Social Responsibility, Quezon City: Rex Bookstore, Inc.,.

Ronald Paul Hill, R.L. (2014) Handbook of Research on Marketing and Corporate Social Responsibility, Cheltenham: Edward Elgar Publishing.

Samuel O. Idowu, C.S.F.A.Y.M.M.E.J.N. (2014) Corporate Social Responsibility and Governance: Theory and Practice, illustrated edition, Berlin: Springer.

Vandekerckhove, D.W. (2012) Whistleblowing and Organizational Social Responsibility: A Global Assessment, revised edition, Farnham: Gower Publishing, Ltd.

William Ransome, C.S.F.P.o.L.a.D.I.I.f.E.G.a.L.C.S. (2016) Ethics and Socially Responsible Investment: A Philosophical Approach, Abingdon: Routledge. 

Alex C. Michalos, D.C.P. (2012) Citation Classics from the Journal of Business Ethics: Celebrating the First Thirty Years of Publication, illustrated edition, Berlin: Springer Science & Business Media.

Andrew Crane, D.M. (2016) Business Ethics: Managing Corporate Citizenship and Sustainability in the Age of Globalization, illustrated edition, oxford: Oxford University Press.

Fritz Allhoff, A.V. (2011) Business Ethics: Ethical theory, distributive justice, and corporate social responsibility, New York: SAGE Publications.

John Okpara, S.O.I. (2013) Corporate Social Responsibility: Challenges, Opportunities and Strategies for 21st Century Leaders, illustrated edition, Berlin: Springer Science & Business Media.

Rex Bookstore, I.. (2007) Business Ethics and Social Responsibility, Quezon City: Rex Bookstore, Inc.,.

Ronald Paul Hill, R.L. (2014) Handbook of Research on Marketing and Corporate Social Responsibility, Cheltenham: Edward Elgar Publishing.

Samuel O. Idowu, C.S.F.A.Y.M.M.E.J.N. (2014) Corporate Social Responsibility and Governance: Theory and Practice, illustrated edition, Berlin: Springer.

Vandekerckhove, D.W. (2012) Whistleblowing and Organizational Social Responsibility: A Global Assessment, revised edition, Farnham: Gower Publishing, Ltd.

William Ransome, C.S.F.P.o.L.a.D.I.I.f.E.G.a.L.C.S. (2016) Ethics and Socially Responsible Investment: A Philosophical Approach, Abingdon: Routledge.

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