Journal of Business Ethics

, 103:497 | Cite as

Business Ethics Should Study Illicit Businesses: To Advance Respect for Human Rights

  • Edmund F. Byrne


Business ethics should include illicit businesses as targets of investigation. For, though such businesses violate human rights they have been largely ignored by business ethicists. It is time to surmount this indifference in view of recent international efforts to define illicit businesses for regulatory purposes. Standing in the way, however, is a meta-ethical question as to whether any business can be declared unqualifiedly immoral. In support of an affirmative answer I address a number of counter-indications by comparing approaches to organized crime and to corporate crime, comparing the ethical critique of businesses studied in business ethics and those socially banned, and comparing the business ethics assumption as to businesses’ ethicality to societal ethical neutrality regarding war-related businesses. My conclusion: to help advance respect for human rights, business ethicists should apply their expertise to the task of defining illicit businesses.


illicit business human rights UNGC corporate crime organized crime international law corporate social responsibility 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.IndianapolisU.S.A.

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