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Editorial: Business ethics or just plain ethics?

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In preparation for Delaware’s largest Christian prayer breakfast for business and civic leaders on Oct. 19, I’d like to write a bit about business ethics.

My friend Marvin “Skip” Schoenhals tells me I’m wrong to use the term.

“Business ethics? There’s no such thing as business ethics,” Schoenhals said. “There are only ethics!”

“It’s the Judeo-Christian heritage, that is the source of what’s right and wrong within a public company and in a secular society in which we live today,” he added, noting that all religions contain some version of the idea “treat others how you want to be treated.”

Skip should know. I’ve been privileged to know Skip, and to call him a friend, since he came to Delaware in 1990.

Foster Friess, another financial services industry leader who is a devout Christian, worked next to my office on Kennett Pike for years. I watched over the last 25-30 years as he and Skip helped lead a renaissance in how Delaware’s business community embraces spirituality.

I’ve often questioned the concept of “business ethics” myself.

Is it rational? Is it something we consider, think about, and contrive? Is it something that is reasoned or deduced?

I think not. If it were, then nothing would be absolute, and everything would be subject to debate, reason, and perhaps even being traded off.

What the monotheistic religions of the world- Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Confucianism and others – have in common are tried-and-true prescriptions about goodness and the right way to live and to behave.

For this to be hard-wired into us, for it to continue to have value for life’s navigational purposes, whatever one’s faith, it’s important to think about, reflect, and even pray on.

That kind of introspection is good for all of us from time to time, whether it’s about business ethics, or simply ethics.

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