Business Ethics: A Global Perspective

Introduction to Business Ethics a Global Perspective

In today’s business world, for surviving in the long run with sustainability, it is important to use business ethics not just as a corporate code, but it should be in the line of business as a corporate philosophy. With reference to the same, Act utilitarianism is there that is one of the very important aspects of business ethics. It refers to the theory of ethics according to which a person’s act is considered to be morally right if he/she has produced at least as much happiness as the other person at same time could have conducted by performing some other act (Horty, 2011). In the present report, as per the given case where Stephen and Ralph are the imaginary stakeholders, concept of act utilitarianism will be explained in detail.

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Evaluation of the response and the way it applies act utilitarianism to the case

As per the given case of Stephen who is concerned about Ralph who has given his 20 years to work on and off the farm and now when he is in his fifties and require help, Stephen is not able to do the same at least for six months and for that period, Ralph will be unemployed. Therefore, according to the scenario, it can be said that act utilitarianism is being applied here as even being not in the position of helping Ralph, Stephen is concerned about him. Major positive outcome of the case is that with gaining development that is, having a farm to better cope with drought, Stephen will have higher productivity. However, due to the same, for at least six months, Ralph will not be having work over there which is the main negative outcome of same (Sandler, 2010). Thus, it can be said that Stephen should think for an alternative according to act utilitarianism so that greatest possible balance of good over bad for Ralph can be gained by his actions made. Stephen should act in a morally neutral manner even when the consequences are not in his control.

It means that even in the situation when he received government grants to fence off waters, put in tree lines and subdivide paddocks to improve the quality of water running into the river and the sustainability of the pasture so that he would better survive droughts and produce more grass with fewer weeds, he should have concern for Ralph (Hursthouse, 2013). However, as per the case, as Stephen is planning to improve the sustainability and productivity of rest of the farm, Ralph would not be able to work for at least six months here. Thus, according to act utilitarianism, the actions performed by Stephen should neither be blameworthy nor praiseworthy.

In accordance with the act utilitarianism, Stephen should think for Ralph instead of his farm. It is because; according to this act, one could produce more happiness in the world and keep people happy by the way of doing charity instead of making efforts for own self-interest. Therefore, with respect to the same, instead of developing the farm, Stephen should think of Ralph as because of him, he may remain unemployed for six months that would be a difficult time for him to survive his livelihood. Under the utilitarian theories, the most common is Bentham's well-known phrase, that is, the greatest good for the greatest number (Harris and Galvin, 2012). However, it can be said that Stephen is not doing anything bad with the Ralph as he is having the chance to work with other farmers that may improve his earnings as he may be paid with higher amount than what Stephen is providing to him.

But, there is one negative point too, that is, it might be possible that Ralph would not have a consistent pay pocket. In addition to this, the act utilitarianism also involves a famous quote given by Jeremy Bentham which states that there are two sovereign masters under which nature has placed the mankind, that is, pain and pleasure (Woodard, 2013). According to the same, it can be said that it is the responsibility of Stephen to act in such a way that Ralph would not come in pain. However, it can also be seen here that Stephen is concerned to act with moral worth as by developing the farm, he is helping in improving the ecological sustainability of land.

Apart from that, by getting concerned for the Ralph as well, he is acting with moral worth. Therefore, it can be said that act utilitarianism is applied here as Stephen is performing all his moral duties. But, it is also clear from the case that with Ralph, justice is not being done. It is because; with developing the farm, Ralph would remain unemployed at least for six months. Also, it can be said as per act utilitarianism that it is believed that people should seek out pleasure and avoid pain if they are having the chance to do same. Thus, in accordance with the same, it is clear that Stephen could have adopt another alternative, that is, giving Ralph some other work to remain employed instead of related to farm. According to the act utilitarianism, act states that individual should take that action which can help or benefit others (Act-Utilitarianism, 2017). But according to the case of Stephen and Ralph, this act can be applied because Stephen is thinking of Ralph at the time of taking action. This states that he is concerned for him.

So, it can be said that utilitarianism approach has been followed in the scenario. Besides this, Stephen is carrying out the development which will help in improving the ecological sustainability. From this, it can said that he is taking the decision for the benefit for environment. As Ralph is not the permanent employee so it can be witnessed that Stephen is not doing harm to him because he any time can leave the farm as he only works for the part time (Morrow, 2014). According to the scenario, as Ralph always wanted to be free so, in that case, Stephen does not have the liability of Ralph. If in case, he was the permanent employee and this situation would be occurred then Stephen would have been responsible. There are some of the aspects which are missing such as according to the utilitarianism approach, the action should be taken which can remove the suffering. But in this case, it is not sure that Ralph would be suffering as if he gets jobs in other farm, then no suffering will occur (Groves and LaRocca, 2011).


It can be concluded from the above report that Act utilitarianism put high stress on the specific context as well as under the same, there are many individual features with respect to the situations by which moral problems are possessed. In addition to this, as per this act, a single method is presented with the help of which individual cases are dealt. In the case given above, with respect to Stephen, Act utilitarianism agrees on the fact that main determinant of what is right or wrong is the major relationship in between what Stephen does and what form his moral code takes. Along with that, case has shown the impact of moral perspective that Stephen has in terms of concern towards Ralph as well as on the level of his well-being.


  • Groves, K. S. and LaRocca, M. A., 2011. An empirical study of leader ethical values, transformational and transactional leadership, and follower attitudes toward corporate social responsibility. Journal of Business Ethics. 103(4). pp.511-528.
  • Harris, J. R. and Galvin, R., 2012. ‘Pass the Cocoamone, Please’: Causal Impotence, Opportunistic Vegetarianism and Act-Utilitarianism. Ethics, Policy & Environment. 15(3). pp.368-383.
  • Horty, J. F., 2011. Perspectival act utilitarianism. In Dynamic Formal Epistemology (pp. 197-221). Springer Netherlands.
  • Hursthouse, R., 2013. Normative virtue ethics. ETHICA. 645.
  • Morrow, D. R., 2014. Starting a flood to stop a fire? Some moral constraints on solar radiation management. Ethics, Policy & Environment. 17(2). pp.123-138.
  • Sandler, R., 2010. Ethical theory and the problem of inconsequentialism: Why environmental ethicists should be virtue-oriented ethicists. Journal of Agricultural and Environmental Ethics. 23(1-2). p.167.
  • Woodard, C., 2013. The common structure of Kantianism and act-utilitarianism. Utilitas. 25(02). pp.246-265.
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