Communications of the IIMA


Corporate leadership is often in the unenviable position of balancing ethical choices and profit. Business decisions consider alternatives and make choices to further strategic business goals. Measures of business success are likely to be financial, including profit, revenue, sales, market share, cost of production, quality of products, innovative product development. Ethical decisions are choices among right and wrong outcomes or processes. Assessment of ethical choices may or may not be easily quantified, including consideration of positive and negative consequences, moral principles, and fair process. Inevitably, then, the inherent nature of business-ethics decisions will involve multiple decision criteria, including both business criteria and ethics criteria. These criteria may conflict, creating dilemmas that may be difficult to resolve. Sometimes ethical business decisions will be profitable, sometimes ethical business decisions will be more costly than less ethical alternatives and therefore be less profitable. Multicriteria analysis tools are designed for such decision dilemmas, yet responsibility inheres to the people who must choose. Conclusions are drawn for individual, corporate, and algorithmic decisions. Decision processes should answer these questions: Are units of measure comparable? Is the system open or closed? Is it deterministic or stochastic? Is there a risk to life? Who is responsible? Is the decision process transparent? Who cares about the outcome? What are their criteria for successful consequences? What ethical principles apply?