Ethics, Religion, and Business in Twentieth Century Britain
This chapter explores the theory and practice of ethical behaviour in 20th century British business. After outlining the scope of business ethics, long-run patterns of ethical behaviour are traced via proxies of unethical behaviour in business. Much of the rest of the chapter investigates the sources of ethical business behaviour and the means by which debate and prescription were translated into action and performance. One major finding is that Christian conviction and action played a central, though not a solitary, role in the emergence of the late 20th century practice of corporate social responsibility (CSR). Brief glances at unethical business behaviour among pious business leaders and ethical business standards in the churches complete the picture. In conclusion a conundrum emerges: why have periods of national economic decline coincided with the erosion of churchgoing but few signals of unethical behaviour in business, while periods of national economic growth coincided with a precipitate collapse in churchgoing and numerous evidences of unethical business behaviour?
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