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Ethical decision-making

Looking at the impact of ethical decision making in our daily lives.

The context of situations can affect the way ethics are applied to decisions, causing us to place a greater level of importance on some areas of decision-making than others based on certain opportunities, experiences, and points of reference.

It is likely that you have selected your attire for its appropriateness as a reflection of your company when you meet with clients. You might have strong feelings about harming animals, or you might prefer the taste or the nutritional content of the vegetarian sandwich. Your entertainment selection might reflect your indifference to watching promiscuous sexual behaviour or certain language in movies, or you might have been outvoted by others joining you at the theatre.

The way you present yourself on social media and the types of things you post on your accounts are undoubtedly decisions you make daily. These examples demonstrate how the context of situations can affect the way ethics are applied to decisions.

Decisions that you make throughout your life have increasing social or personal consequences as you begin to act on behalf of organisations and employers. You may place a greater level of importance on some areas of decision-making than others based on your opportunities, experiences, and point of reference. The choice to date co-workers, claim travel expenses that are allowable but not used, return a shirt you have already worn, turn in a term paper written by someone else, or secure a manufacturing contract for your employer with an overseas company that hires children as labourers, all have varying degrees of social and personal consequences.

Children working on shoes in a production line of a manufacturing company that manufactures shoes, as an example of child labour used in certain industries

Your career satisfaction will be influenced by the fit between your values and those of your corporate work environment. Furthermore, the beliefs and values that shape your decisions, in both your personal life and in the workplace, should mesh or else you will experience a great deal of conflict between the two. Your personal ethics affect your feelings toward situations at work and the specific decisions you ultimately make. An awareness of the potential ethical application of decisions you make will enhance your ability to make choices that appropriately reflect your own values and those of your employers.

Knowing that responsibility accompanies decisions is sometimes enough motivation to do the right thing. Though we might choose to do the right thing for its virtuous outcome alone, it is important to realize that making appropriate (or inappropriate) choices also shapes both our personal and professional reputations. As a student, you are beginning to move from making decisions that are mostly personal to taking on responsibilities for decisions that are or will be made on behalf of organisations or in a workplace. As you accept leadership positions, whether as president of a student organisation or as the manager of a retail store, your personal values will serve as your point of reference for decisions and behaviours that you exercise in a professional capacity. Your decisions in the workplace must reflect the values of your employer if you expect to advance in your career.

Ethical decision-making can be practised and improved. You are encouraged, as you read this book, to reflect often on your own ethical base, and to think about how you will approach opportunities to make ethical decisions in the future. In the same manner that you work to enhance other skills, the ability to recognise ethical dilemmas, anticipate others’ reactions to your decisions, and identify appropriate criteria on which to base your decisions, can be improved with attention and experience.

The time to begin developing this skill is now, rather than after you have entered the professional arena, where you will be expected to make appropriate and complicated decisions on behalf of your employer.

In this course, you also learn how ethics change over time, by considering how practices that were commonly accepted in our ancestors’ cultures are seen as unethical behaviors in today’s society.

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Consumers and Ethical Considerations in the Fashion Industry

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