Ethics and morals: Inside and out
Many people use the terms morals and ethics as if they were interchangeable, but there is a very basic difference. Morals have more to do with core beliefs of right and wrong that define a person’s character while ethics relate to how those morals are applied.
Because morals are based upon a belief in and acceptance of a code of right and wrong, it is fair to say that morality is based upon one’s acceptance of the universal truths of right and wrong. Ethics are the application of this belief as demonstrated in the way we conduct ourselves and how we treat other people.
Some people draw a distinction between personal and business ethics. It’s a valid distinction, but no matter what the context, ethical behavior is an expression of core values and beliefs. Ideally, therefore, one’s ethics — whether expressed in the context of family, social or business interactions — should be consistent because they reflect the same core values and beliefs.
Our ethics expose and express our core values, our beliefs, and the way we view ourselves and others. Whatever is on the inside of us — values, character, nature and beliefs — is shown on the outside by how we present ourselves and how we interact with and treat others.
Those of us who are certified by the UPPCC have agreed to adhere to a “Code of Ethics” as part of obtaining and maintaining our certification. The code identifies ways by which we should conduct ourselves and treat others as purchasing professionals. Failure to adhere to the code could lead to a loss of certification. While this is a very good code for purchasing professionals, I believe no person can consistently display ethical behavior if the only control is an external code. Instead, we as purchasing professionals should strive to develop our character so that we conduct ourselves and treat others in ways that are both consistent with this code and are an outward expression of our internal character and nature.
About the author
J. Kevin Beardsley, CPPB, CPPO, is director of purchasing, Virginia Beach City Public Schools.