What Is Business Ethics?
What are some examples of problem-areas in business?
Why are ethical questions usually complex?
And what are some decision-making criteria?

Business ethics is the art and discipline of applying ethical principles to examine and solve complex moral dilemmas [problems].  Business ethics asks what is right and wrong, what is good and bad, in business transactions. Ethical solutions to business problems may have more than one 'right' alternative, and sometimes no 'right' alternative may seem to be available. Logical and ethical reasoning are therefore required for understanding and thinking through complex moral problems in business situations.

Business ethics requires reasoning and judgment based on principles for making choices that balance economic self-interests against social and welfare claims.

One expert stated that business ethics deals with three basic areas of managerial decision making: 
1)  choices about what the laws should be, and are, and whether to follow them
2)  choices about economic and social issues outside the law's domain, and
3)  choices about the priority of one's self interest over the company's

Different sources have described a variety of major ethical issues in business.  One source provided this list:

In a Wall Street Journal  study of 1,400 women in 1990, the following unethical practices were reported as occurring most frequently in business:

Other examples of questionable ethical activities that involve and affect corporations include the follwoing:

Eight Reasons Why Moral Problems Are Often Complex and Difficult and Require Reasoning from Ethical Principles:
1. Managers must confront a distinction between facts and values
2. Good and evil exist simultaneously, interlocked
3. Knowledge of consequences is limited
4. There are multiple corporate constituencies (stakeholders and interested parties), often with conflicting and competing ethical claims
5. Ethical standards change over history
6. Human reasoning is imperfect
7. Ethical standards and principles are not always adequate for resolving conflicts
8. Twenty-first-century managers are faced with new ethical problems that exceed traditional concerns such as honesty, charity, and modesty.

Decision Criteria for Ethical Reasoning:
  1. Have you defined the problem accurately
  2. Have you defined the problem objectively
  3. How did this situation occur in the first place?
  4. To whom and to what do you give your loyalty, as a person and as a member of the corporation?
  5. What is your intention in making this decision?
  6. How does this intention compare with the probable results? (Is what you want to have happen likely to happen?)
  7. Whom could you decision or action harm or injure?
  8. Can you discuss the problem with the affected parties before you make the decision?
  9. Are you confident that your decision will be as valid (appropriate) over a long period as it seems now?
  10. Could you disclose without hesitation your decision to management, family, and friends?
  11. What is the symbolic potential of your action if understood?  If misunderstood? 
  12. Under what conditions, if any, would you allow exceptions to your position?