The Ethical Dimension of Sustainability
Ethics can be defined as “a philosophical term derived from the Greek word ‘ethos’ meaning character or custom.”1 Ethics in the generic term is driven from a combination of the individual and/or family values, moral principles, religious beliefs, cultural norms, and best practices. An individual's values are derived from moral principles that a person was instilled with as being right or wrong, whereas an individual's choices are the actions taken to do what is right or wrong. The current financial crisis was partially caused by a number of ethical lapses made by both organizations and individuals involved in the mortgage markets including: mortgage originators, financial intermediaries, and mortgage borrowers. These lapses collectively contributed to the financial crisis and resulting global economic meltdown and have threatened the sustainability of individuals, businesses, and governments. The crisis and related financial scandals have policymakers, regulators, and ethics advocates questioning what have been considered normal business practices, to what extent ethics and corporate culture affect the business process, and whether ethics performance should be reflected in overall corporate reporting. This chapter addresses these and other ethics-related questions in the context of the ethical dimension of economic, governance, social, ethical, and environmental (EGSEE) sustainability performance.