Managing ethical dilemmas (in Ecommerce)

Source: Theseus

Ethical, social and political issues are closely connected and usually display themselves as dilemmas.

An ethical dilemma is a term used to describes the situation where there is a requirement to choose among conflicting options where each option has its own consequences, both negative and positive. There are usually ethical, social and political dimensions to an ethical dilemma. The relationships among ethical, social and political dimensions concerning e-commerce are illustrated in Table 1 below.

Doing business in an e-commerce world is likely present numerous ethical dilemmas. Organisations can employ the following strategies to navigate these dilemmas.

  1. Identify the facts, the who, when, where and how of any particular situation where an ethical dilemma presents and then get consensus among the dilemma stakeholders that the facts are correctly identified.
  2. Identify the higher-order values such profits, freedom, privacy, security, protection of property, etc. These higher values applied to the greatest number of people would have the best chance of solving the dilemma.
  3. Solicit feedback from the stakeholders themselves, what do they want, what are their expectation and factor this into the final solution.
  4. It is impossible and probably undesirable to try to please all the people all the time. Sometimes the best ethical solution is not the one that balance all good consequences to stakeholders.
  5. Always consider the question of “will this option be chosen consistently over time?”
    Preferred solutions can often appear to be ethical but then have adverse unintended consequences when applied in a different context. By considering solutions in a longer term, ethical dilemmas can be analysed systematically and efficiently.
Table 1
Note: This article is based on an extract taken from a paper titled ‘Business Ethics in E-commerce’ written by Khanh Nguyen of Seinajoki University 2016

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