Corruption ethics and corporate social responsibility

This case illustrates several ethical issues including those related to social responsibility as well as to business transactions. A food and beverage shop has an ethical obligation to follow rules of food safety. If it is agreed that the rule related to the distance between the building and the trash dumpster is a reasonable one, then our company should comply with these rules even if it poses an inconvenience and requires us to reconfigure our locations. However, it is possible that the government arbitrarily set these distances. It would be in our company’s best interest to find empirical evidence suggesting that six feet makes a difference, and that five feet is actually unsafe. If we can unearth research that shows that five feet is sufficient to promote public health and safety, then we should present those findings to the health department and request that the rule be changed. Doing so would also help other small businesses and promote a rational and evidence-based legal framework rather than one based on arbitrary regulations.

As Sherman (2003) points out, “laws, rules, and regulations set enforceable limits beyond which personal choice is not permitted,” (p. 1). If our research does yield the conclusion that five feet does prevent health hazards, then we will need to obey the rule and change our business practices. There are two reasons why the inspector’s offer is unethical. The first is that it constitutes a bribe. Soliciting or accepting bribes is categorically unethical in this situation. The fact that the inspector offered to trade oversight for food is a violation of ethical norms of business transactions. We should certainly not take this offer. The second reason why the inspector’s offer is unethical is that it would mean that we care more about the distance between the trash bin and the store than we do about our customers’ health and safety. In the long run, protecting the best interests of our clients is not just ethical but sensible from a business perspective. As Silverthorne (2003) puts it, “good ethics is good business,” (p. 1).

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It will seem tempting to accept the offer about the holiday party because it will be a lot of work to change our store configuration. “ Some may see benefits from indulging in corrupt practices such as faster processing of permits or less interference from governmental officials,” (Velamuri, Harvey & Venkataraman, 2017, p. 1). In fact, if the perceived costs of corruption are low, such as a low likelihood of getting caught versus certainty that reconfiguration will cost a lot of money. Research shows that when businesses make financial investments in sound ethical practices, they succeed in the long run even considering short term losses (Velamuri, Harvey & Venkataraman, 2017). The reason for this phenomenon is that consumers value ethical businesses, and ethical businesses garner solid long-term reputations for their corporate social responsibility practices.

The health inspector is acting unethically by offering to violate the rules, and to accept the offer would be perpetuating an unethical business environment. A company that resolutely stands up against corruption is one that stands to gain much in the long run from loyal customers who are concerned with ethics as well as safety, health, and corporate social responsibility—the ethic governing business behaviors that places the wellbeing of customers beyond the drive towards earning maximum profit at any given time.

Therefore, the first step would be to evaluate the legitimacy of the law itself. The second step would be to kindly and politely turn down the offer, while expressing thanks for the opportunity. It would also be a good idea to use this as an opportunity to offer to honestly cater the holiday party at standard rates as a sign of good will. The third step is assuming the regulations are based on empirical evidence would be to run an analysis on how much it would cost to downsize the trash bin or to move it within the health standard regulations.










Sherman, S. (2003). Rethinking Integrity. Leader to Leader, (28), 39–45.

Silverthorne, S. (2008). Business ethics: pay the bribe? MoneyWatch.

Velamuri, S.R., Harvey, W.S. & Venkataraman, S. (2017). Being an ethical business in a corrupt environment. Harvard Business Review.



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