Ethics, Morals & Values in Business: Comparison & Applications

An error occurred trying to load this video.

Try refreshing the page, or contact customer support.

Coming up next: Ethical Development: Stages & Training

You're on a roll. Keep up the good work!

Take Quiz Watch Next Lesson
Your next lesson will play in 10 seconds
  • 0:04 Things That Really Matter
  • 0:36 Values
  • 1:18 Morals
  • 2:22 Ethics
  • 5:05 Lesson Summary
Save Save Save

Want to watch this again later?

Log in or sign up to add this lesson to a Custom Course.

Log in or Sign up

Speed Speed
Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Scott Tuning

Scott has been a faculty member in higher education for over 10 years. He holds an MBA in Management, an MA in counseling, and an M.Div. in Academic Biblical Studies.

Although they are closely related, morals, ethics, and values are not the same. This lesson explores their differences and the manner in which each influences organizational behavior.

Things That Really Matter

Consider this quote: 'If we threw out all of our policy manuals, we could still make decisions based on our understanding of our culture.' This incredibly powerful statement was made by a former CEO of Wells Fargo, who wanted to communicate the idea that the culture of integrity at the financial giant was so strong that it could stand alone, even without a policy manual that dictated a robust code of conduct.

Let's look at how organizations can create a strong culture of corporate responsibility, integrity, and transparency.


In the context of business, values are best defined as behaviors that have fundamental worth. This worth arises, not because an entity gains something from them, but because the entity holding the values finds the behavior proper and appropriate.

Sportswear manufacturer Adidas has displayed company values in action with their participation in a joint venture with the micro-finance organization Grameen Bank. These business allies work to provide extremely low-cost shoes for disadvantaged children in Bangledesh. Adidas receives no tangible benefits from the program, but the company's leadership has made the commitment to be a responsible partner with their community.


In the United States, couples needing a surrogate mother pay as much as $200,000 for a woman willing to carry a baby to term. In contrast, companies in India, Thailand, Georgia, and the Ukraine all aggressively promote medical tourism and offer surrogacy for as little as $30,000. Is it moral for a company in the United States to demand that childless couples pay a price that is nearly seven times higher than other options?

Moral behavior is characterized by an individual who is capable of both differentiating right from wrong, and choosing the option they determined was right. It could be argued that U.S.-based surrogacy organizations are engaging in immoral actions because the company is profiteering at the expense of desperate couples yearning for a child of their own. In contrast, an argument could also be made that the company is acting morally because they are assisting childless couples who would otherwise have no way to conceive.

These two contrasting positions serve as an excellent example of how morals are often far more relative than they are absolute.


The fact that morals and values are not absolute gives rise to the need for ethics. Ethics refers to behaviors that are not intrinsically right or wrong, but for which society has established expectations of behavior.

When someone hears the name McDonald's, the last thing that comes to mind is an ethical meltdown, but the company has experienced an occasional ethics struggle. For the last two decades, McDonald's has had a relatively positive record with regard to ethical practices. However, in 1972, McDonald's founder Ray Kroc made a substantial contribution to the presidential campaign of Richard Nixon. After assuming office, Nixon facilitated the passage of legislation extremely helpful to the interests of McDonald's.

The ethical problems associated with a pay-to-play scheme in politics are inappropriate on their own, but this ethical failure was worse because it actively disenfranchised individuals without a voice. The legislation pushed by Nixon allowed companies like McDonald's to discriminate against young workers by creating exemptions that allowed companies to pay up to 20% less to employees who were teenagers.

To unlock this lesson you must be a Member.
Create your account

Register to view this lesson

Are you a student or a teacher?

Unlock Your Education

See for yourself why 30 million people use

Become a member and start learning now.
Become a Member  Back
What teachers are saying about
Try it risk-free for 30 days

Earning College Credit

Did you know… We have over 200 college courses that prepare you to earn credit by exam that is accepted by over 1,500 colleges and universities. You can test out of the first two years of college and save thousands off your degree. Anyone can earn credit-by-exam regardless of age or education level.

To learn more, visit our Earning Credit Page

Transferring credit to the school of your choice

Not sure what college you want to attend yet? has thousands of articles about every imaginable degree, area of study and career path that can help you find the school that's right for you.

Create an account to start this course today
Try it risk-free for 30 days!
Create an account