The development of modern business is often accompanied by a number of ethical issues which affects consistently the organizational performance of companies. However, it is not only companies that are affected by ethical issues which can arise in the course of the business development, but it is also people working at organizations or living in areas where organizations operate. In such a situation, it is very important that modern companies conduct ethically responsible policies and avoided the violation of basic human rights and liberties. Moreover, the modern business environment has to be focused on the development of business ethics as the foundation on the ground of which modern companies should develop their policies and business strategies. In order to understand the essence of modern business ethics and possible problems evoked by ignorance of ethical issues companies, it is possible to refer to such films as “Erin Brockovich”¯ and “Other People’s Money”¯, which reveal a large scope of ethical problems related to modern business.
First of all, one of the main ethical issues which often arise in the contemporary business environment is the issue of fairness of business in its relations with employees, local communities and business partners. In this respect, “Other People’s Money”¯ reveals the extent to which modern business can be deceptive and unfair. In fact, the entire film depicts a struggle over the company “New England Wire and Cable”¯. Two major characters, Larry and Kate, are scheming to maintain the upper hand in their struggle to obtain control over the company. In such a situation, they use all means available to them to the extent that the principle “ends justify means”¯ become dominant until the moment when Larry has to make a moral, ethical choice between money and Kate, between the commercial success and personal happiness. At the same time the film is a perfect illustration of business acumen, when the main characters’ game of cat-and-mouse reveals the intellectual power and cunningness of either character.
In this respect, the film “Erin Brockovich”¯ also deals with business acumen, though it has a substantially more negative connotation compared to the film “Other People’s Money”¯. In actuality, business acumen becomes a major cause of the problems the main character, Erin, and the community depicted in the film suffer from. To put it more precisely, from the beginning of the film the audience learns that Erin has become a victim of a complicated apparently unfair, but legally correct of a doctor whom the main character loses the personal injury lawsuit. It proves beyond a doubt that she, being a single mother of three children, should get the compensation for her personal injury, but the business acumen of the doctor deprives her of such an opportunity that looks absolutely unfair.
However, the main character is not broken by her defeat and she continues to believe in justice and the opportunity to prevent unfair and unethical business practices. As she reveals the fact that the company PG&E is poisoning the local community and polluting environment, she uses the vague opportunity to oppose to the large and powerful company and challenge her unethical and apparently illegal practices.
In this respect, the film raises the problem of the exploitation of natural environment by modern companies, such as the PG&E and their negative impact on the environment. Obviously, the practice of the PG&E is absolutely unacceptable in the modern society and contradicts to the modern culture. In fact, today, people are growing to be more and more concerned with the environmental protection, while the PG&E pollutes the environment and poisons the local community. At the same time, such a policy of the company violates not only basic cultural and ethical norms, but it also violates the existing environmental legislation. Moreover, the company cannot develop business which can be harmful for the health of people. In fact, the local community became a victim, if not to say, a hostage of business interests of the PG&E. However, the company is apparently more concerned with its own profits than with the health of people. In such a context, it is obvious that the film raises the similar ethical issue of the choice between fair and ethical behavior of businessmen and the harmful practices, which, as the matter of fact, is the choice between normal life of people and money.
At this point, it is possible to speak about similarity of problems raised in both films. However, it is important to lay emphasis on the fact that the main character Larry does have a choice between money and personal happiness, while the PG&E and local community depicted in “Erin Brockovich”¯ practically do not have such a choice.
Finally, these choices challenge the existing set of values, since modern society is concerned with wealth and often forgets basic humanistic, ethical values and both films show that the ignorance of humanistic, ethical values is unacceptable in the modern business environment because the personal happiness and well-being of people outweigh all material and financial benefits of modern business.