10. Ethics

“An attitude to life which seeks fulfilment in the
single-minded pursuit of wealth – in short, materialism – does not fit into this
world, because it contains within itself no limiting principle, while the
environment in which it is placed is strictly limited.”
― E.F. Schumacher (1973)

What do we mean by ethics? Common ethical principles are cited as honesty, integrity, accountability, responsibility, loyalty,  transparency, promise-keeping, fairness, caring, and law abiding.

Consider what ethics means to you, in your own words?

During the Covid-19 pandemic, not only did entrepreneurship result in new vaccines and tracking systems being developed, but technological developments enabled people to work and study from home, holding meetings, conferences and lectures without the need to travel. These changes helped reduce costs and the carbon footprint. With such new ways of doing things, it is likely that once the pandemic is over, the world will not return entirely to as it was before, particularly in terms of the workplace. In the words of Ratten (2020) “the health pandemic caused by Covid-19 has dramatically changed society and altered current business practices”. There remains considerable uncertainty and confusion about the future, precisely the conditions in which entrepreneurship may flourish..

Not all entrepreneurial activity has been ethical and productive. There have been examples of the dark, unethical side of entrepreneurship involving both destructive enterprising behaviour and exploitation.  Such activities have included entrepreneurs who, amongst others, have:-

  • Targeted  the lonely and vulnerable1
  • Promoted miracle cures including fake coronavirus treatments and testing2
  • Inflated the price of high demand items such as testing kits3
  • Sold counterfeit products online4
  • Posted  fake refund websites5
  • Introduced copycat websites that claim to be delivering government services6.
  • Promoted  Competition Scams7 Notes 1-7

As the UK Minister for Small Business has said “scams and profiteering schemes are despicable at any time but particularly so if they seek to exploit the Covid-19 pandemic”. It is not just unethical, illegal entrepreneurship that is a cause for concern however. There is the ethical issue of whether law-abiding entrepreneurial ventures should profit from the pandemic at a time when the world is dealing not just with a public health crisis but with economic collapse.

Watch the short video of ethics in modern society, influenced by two well-known economists, E.F. Schumacher and W. Baumol, and Elert & Henrekson (2016) and infused with some examples from some ‘popular culture’ characters…

As noted in the previous session, to be classed as an harmonious entrepreneurship, entrepreneurial activity should not only conform to the HES definition – that is, “a vision for the future that is rooted in ethical innovation that results in change and improvement in economy and society, while not harming or damaging people or the environment”… It should improve and replenish them and lead to development that is both long-term and sustainable”. It should also embrace the five PROSPER aspects of development as identified by Dr. Iman El -Kaffass (2007):

  1. Professionally based: taking state-of-the-art quality measures to develop, improve and grow the business
  2. Spiritually and ethically inspired: emanating from a principle of doing good on earth – benefit the environment and the wholeness of the world, ensuring equilibrium and justice and sustaining the initial harmony of the universe.
  3. Physically/materially concerned: supporting improvement in the health and wellbeing of people and the physical environment, including air, earth, seas and space
  4. Emotionally rooted: serving and benefitting the community
  5. Rationally and Intellectually based: creative and innovative, finding smart and novel solutions.

Read about Ethics in Practice – Small is beautiful (E.F. Schumacher, 1973)- A HES case study

Read the Richard Branson case study and consider the questions included.

Has your definition of ethics changed since completing this session? Share your ideas in ‘participants comment’ below.


Baumol, W. (1990), ‘Entrepreneurship: productive, unproductive, and destructive’, Journal of political Economy, 98(5), 893-921.

Brenkert, G.G. (2009), ‘Innovation, Rule breaking and the Ethics of entrepreneurship’, Journal of Business Venturing, 24(5), 448-464.  

Crane, A., Matten, D. (2016). Business Ethics (4th ed.), United Kingdom: Oxford University Press.

Chell, E., Spence, L.J., Perrini, F., and Harris, J.D., (2016), ‘Social Entrepreneurship and business ethics: Does Social equal Ethical’, Journal of Business Ethics, 33(4), 619-625.

Elert, N., & Henrekson, M. (2016), ‘Evasive entrepreneurship’, Small Business Economics, 47(1), 95-113.

El Kaffass, I. (2007). Presentation on Leadership. Third Annual Event of the Leadership in Education (LEAD) Program.  American University in Cairo.

Friedman, M., (1970) The Social Responsibility of Business is to Increase its Profits. New York Times. September 13, 122-126.

Gawel, A.  (2012), ‘Entrepreneurship and Sustainability: do they have anything in common?’, Poznan University of Economics Review. 12 (1), 5-16.

HRH The Prince of Wales, Juniper, T., and Skelly, I., (2010), ‘Harmony: a new way of looking at our world‘, London: HarperCollins.

Schumacher, E.F. (1973), ‘Small is beautiful: Economics as if people mattered‘, London: Bond &Briggs

Video credits: Breaking Bad. 2008. Directed by V. Gilligan. AMC; Only Fools and Horses. 1981 Written by John Sullivan

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© Harmonious-Entrepreneurship.org

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