Business Ethics: Transcending Requirements through Moral Leadership ------Chapter 12 – Moral Accountability CHAPTER 12 – MORAL ACCOUNTABILITY A. B. C. D. E. F. G. H. I. J. Introduction Moral Accountability for Acting Moral Accountability-Not Acting-The Ethical Principle of “Last Resort” Social Responsibility Altruism Moral Saints and Heroes Ethical Codes Role Responsibility Agent Responsibility Collective Responsibility © Cavico & Mujtaba, 2005 Introduction: Casual and Legal The purpose of this section is to enumerate and explain various types or levels of moral accountability. In order to comprehend degrees of moral responsibility, however, it is necessary first to examine casual and legal accountability. A person is accountable casually for all consequences of his or her actions, regardless of intent, volition, or the length and attenuation of the causation chain of events. A person is responsible legally for his or her intentional, wrongful actions, and careless, negligent, wrongful actions, as well as the foreseeable consequences thereof. © Cavico & Mujtaba, 2005 Moral Accountability for Acting A person is responsible morally for an action he or she knowingly and freely performed or brought about; he or she is responsible immorally when the act was morally wrong to be performed or brought about. Moral responsibility may be excused or lessened because of the actor’s ignorance, inability, or lack of freedom. Performing an immoral action, or failing to perform a moral action, without a recognized excuse reflects poorly on one’s moral character. © Cavico & Mujtaba, 2005 Moral Obligation to Act – Ethical Principle of “Last Resort” The ethical principle of “last resort” indicates when one has a moral duty to act, to aid another, or to rescue. The principle is based partially on Kant’s admonition that “ought implies can,” that is that one is obligated to do only what one can do. The “last resort” principle usually involves an obligation of immediacy and high priority posed by an emergency; it thus generates moral obligation to act that one cannot ignore without moral condemnation. © Cavico & Mujtaba, 2005 Social Responsibility The term “social responsibility” may be defined as taking an active part in the social causes and civic life of one’s community and society. While corporations may be limited in their abilities to solve the multitude of social problems, they stand to gain an improved public image by being socially responsible thus the possibility of gaining more customers. © Cavico & Mujtaba, 2005 Societal Accountability Although business may not have a moral responsibility, based on the principle of “last resort,” to improve the quality of life in the community and society, business may be obligated by a standard of social responsibility to work for social as well as economic betterment. The words “accountability” and “responsibility,” imply some sort of an obligation on the part of business to deal with social problems. © Cavico & Mujtaba, 2005 Moral Saints and Heroes A person is deemed a saint or hero if he or she does an act or performs a duty under circumstances in which almost all people would not. Saint and hero status invariably involves great sacrifice. Saints and heroes differ in that a saint primarily resists desires and self-interest, whereas a hero primarily resists fear and selfpreservation. Saint status also usually entails a consistency in character, purpose, and deeds over a period of time, whereas a person can become a hero by the performance of a single heroic act. © Cavico & Mujtaba, 2005 Business Hero A business hero has vision. He or she must be willing to take risks and must be determined and persistent in achieving his or her objectives. The business hero puts one’s vision into action and successfully leads others through the future. In the world of business, people do not see themselves as heroes but maybe they should. Explaining their contributions to society could be one way in altering the world’s view about business and heroes. © Cavico & Mujtaba, 2005 Ethical Codes An ethical code should serve human needs. A code cannot demand conduct beyond the capacity of ordinary people in ordinary circumstances. Distinguishing levels of conduct is extremely important when one attempts to hold people accountable and to exert moral pressure in the form of praise and blame. © Cavico & Mujtaba, 2005 Demands of Corporations There are three legitimate types of demands that can be made against a corporation. Legally, a corporation must obey the law and is held accountable for breaking the law. A corporation is morally accountable. The essence of a corporation’s moral obligation is to do no moral harm. A corporation should be involved socially to a limited degree, and a corporation must be cognizant of the fact that society can impose on business certain social obligations that are neither legal nor moral. © Cavico & Mujtaba, 2005 Role Responsibility Role responsibility encompasses assuming a certain position, role, or occupation in society or in an organization. A parent, for example, has a moral obligation to sustain and nurture his or her child and a corporate executive has a moral obligation to be an honest and efficient manager for the benefit of the shareholders. When one assumes a position in a business as an employee, one takes on the responsibility of performing the functions of that role and obeying the rules of the employer. However, if an organizational rule or employer order requires one to act immorally that employee is not exonerated. Role responsibility is subordinate to general moral responsibility, as determined by ethical principles. © Cavico & Mujtaba, 2005 Role Morality Business people must be careful and avoid adopting a “role morality” mentality, which may cause them to abandon their ethics in the belief that the sacrifice is necessary to succeed in a highly competitive environment. Clearly, it must be understood that business objectives, and even profession status, do not supersede fundamental ethical principles. © Cavico & Mujtaba, 2005 Agent Responsibility A large organization, such as a corporation, usually reflects a hierarchical structure of authority, where orders and directives emanate from those higher in the organization to a variety of subordinates, who act on the basis of orders from their superiors. This type of structure at times may cause problems of moral accountability. One view holds that the subordinate, even though he or she was the agent in the immoral act’s execution, nonetheless is absolved from responsibility and only the superior is accountable. It is wrong, however, to exonerate the subordinate totally if he or she knowingly performs an immoral act. The superior, of course, morally is held accountable because he or she knowingly and freely brought about the immoral act through the means or agency of the subordinates. © Cavico & Mujtaba, 2005 Collective Responsibility Assigning or assuming moral accountability within an organization raises the issue of collective responsibility. Legally, the acts of the corporation generally are attributed to the entity, so long as the board of directors, managers, agents, and employees act with authority and within the scope of their authority. The notion of collective moral accountability, however, is ambiguous and may be interpreted in a variety of ways. © Cavico & Mujtaba, 2005 Moral Responsibility Views The “individual responsibility” view holds that those people who knowingly and freely did what was necessary to produce the corporate act are morally accountable. The “group responsibility” view holds that when a group of people jointly act to produce a result, the act is the act of the group, and thus the group is morally responsible. The “legal” view of collective moral accountability attributes responsibility to the entity itself and not to the people involved either as individuals or as a group. © Cavico & Mujtaba, 2005 Conclusion In conclusion, individuals are ultimately responsible morally for the known, intended, and foreseeable consequences of their freely chosen actions and also for joining their actions with others to produce a group result. Moral accountability is attributed to the entity, the group, as well as to the individuals involved. © Cavico & Mujtaba, 2005 Reference Cavico, F. & Mujtaba, B., (2005). Business Ethics: Transcending Requirements through Moral Leadership. Pearson Custom Publications. U.S.A. ISBN: 0-536-5783-0. Address: 75 Arlington Street, Suite 300. Boston Mass, 02116. Phone: (800) 3741200. Or: (800) 9220579.