While there has been widescale acknowledgement of the importance of business ethics, it is evident that many businesses still conduct themselves unethically. This paper adapts Lawrence Kohlberg’s study on moral development to provide insight into the different levels of impact that self interest and public interest may have on promoting higher levels of business ethics. By drawing on Kohlberg’s stages of moral development, an attempt is made to show the importance of public interest in promoting higher levels of business ethics. Attention is devoted to the capacity of businesses driven by public interest over self interest in curbing unethical conduct. While some may argue that businesses are notably motivated by self interest, there is also evidence that businesses also act for moral purposes primarily out of concern for the public. It is suggested that at stage 2 of the preconventional level of cognitive moral development which can be associated with self interest, business ethics is promoted at a lower level. However, at stage 4 of the conventional level which can be associated with public interest, business ethics is promoted at a higher level.
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