Business ethics as a formal discipline in the U.S. dates back only to the 1960s. Formal positions in the corporate structure that deal with ethical issues dates back to the 1980s. Ethics reflect values determined by the purpose of the organization. For example, corporations are created to maximize profits for the owners; sacrificing profits for other concerns are unethical, except when legal and moral issues take precedent.
Recently corporate social responsibility has come on strong as an ethical concern. Responsibilities toward communities, workers and the environment are becoming stronger ethical concerns as economic changes occur that strongly impact society. Business ethics concern all stake holders, not just the owners of the corporation and business managers need to realize this to avoid malpractice in carrying out their duties.
Workers who put a large part of their lives into the corporation are definitely stakeholders and the corporation has a responsibility to its workers and their families. Communities in which corporations reside are definitely stakeholders as they depend on the corporation for the overall economic well-being, tax base and environmental impact. The corporation has a responsibility to the community or local society for its environmental impact.
Workers depend on the corporation for their lively hood and are entitled to a living wage and at some point job security. The community that provides infrastructure and other services is entitled to support in the form of taxes and good corporate citizenship. The local society is entitled to care of the environment so that pollution is controlled and adverse impacts are minimized and dealt with in a socially responsible way.
The modern corporation is no longer simply a profit generating enterprise. While this remains the overriding purpose of the corporation it must be carried out within the business ethical norms that currently exist in the society to do otherwise would constitute malpractice on the part of business managers. The current overall economic and social environment has evolved to where the corporate entity must be concerned with matters bigger than itself and its owners.