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Small business, small ethics?

Ethics is for everyone, for small businesses as much as for large corporations, and yet it’s easy to slip into the trap of calling for ethical behaviour by the largest multinationals while forgetting to do the same with small and mid-sized businesses, letting the image of the SMB in the chokehold of banks and big business take over. It’s not easy to talk about ethics for small business, but we must. We must because there are always two sides to ethics, one for the businesses that have to adopt them and the other for those that benefit from them.

A work by Donovan A. McFarlane (from the H. Wayne Huizenga School of Business and Entrepreneurship, Nova Southeastern University, Fort Lauderdale, Florida) is helpful in this regard in that it applies a thorough approach to ethics for small business. Recently published in the Entrepreneurship and Innovation Management Journal, “The Importance of Business Ethics to Small Ventures” looks, in particular, into the issue of the vulnerability of small business and into business ethics, both of which are key to understanding the activities of this type of business and, above all, to the role that they play within the economy as a whole.

The author then explores the literature on the topic and seeks to determine what the “ethical obligations” of small business are, as well as to identify the standards of business ethics and the ethical challenges facing small businesses. But McFarlane doesn’t stop there. He then attempts to identify four areas in which ethics is especially important to small venture practices, namely laws, the system of social organisation, morality and religion, and relations with stakeholders, before coming up with a series of recommendations for improving ethical behaviour in order to create value for the customer and to better the image of the business itself.  Recommendations that we all should read.

The Importance of Business Ethics to Small Ventures 

Donovan A. McFarlane

Entrepreneurship and Innovation Management Journal

Volume 1, Issue 1 (November 2013), Pages: 50-59