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Ethics Report: How Indigenous Peoples and Non-Indigenous People Have Treated the Environment

Assignment Question: Ethics Report

Task: Write a report that compares and contrasts how Indigenous peoples and non-Indigenous people have treated the environment. Then give recommendations for how we can balance environmental and business interests to ensure a sustainable future.

In your Report, Please Address The Following:

1. Describe the relationship that Indigenous Australians have with their lands.

2. Discuss traditional business attitudes to the environment.

3. Briefly describe different types of sustainability.

4. Explain the concept of ‘the tragedy of the commons.

5. Discuss whether environmental sustainability is a human rights and an ethical issue.

6. Explain the role, if any, that consumers play in how business treats the environment.

7. Discuss who should bear the costs of environmental degradation/pollution.

8. Discuss whether business has a right to use the earth’s natural resources.

9. Discuss whether business can be sustainable if it uses up all of the earth’s finite resources.

10. Make recommendations for how both business and the environment can be sustainable.

11. Choose either egoism or an ethic of care. Explain your chosen theory and use it to support your recommendations.

Your Report Should Consist Of The Following Sections:

• Title page

• Table of contents

• Introduction

• Body of the report

• Recommendations

• Conclusion And

• References


This task is designed to measure the following learning objectives:

• be able to outline ethical theories in western moral philosophy and apply them in organisational contexts.

• be able to solve real life ethical dilemmas.

• be able to demonstrate knowledge and understanding of Indigenous Australian relationships to land and discuss the responsibility that business has to conduct its operations in a manner that does not threaten environmental sustainability.

• be able to critically reflect on your role as a business professional and how your future actions as business professionals can affect society in positive and negative ways.

Assignment Answer: Ethics Report



Business and environment share a critical relationship. Environmentally sustainable business is the need of the hour. It involves making decisions and taking actions that require emphasis on preserving the capability of the environment for supporting the human life. Business and environment sustainability is an important topic of discussion in the business and environment community as people are now realizing the full impact that individuals and businesses can have on the surrounding environment in which they work. Negative impact of business is required to be reduced (Environmental needs must balance business needs, 2011). Such reduction is not just about use of less energy or generation of less amount of waste, but is related and concerned with the development of such processes that can lead the business to become completely sustainable in future (Goodland, 2002). The report discusses traditional business attitudes towards the environment, indigenous and non-indigenous people treating their environment, concept of environmental sustainability, ethical issues, and business attitudes towards the environment and how it can be improved.

Relationship of indigenous Australians with land

Indigenous people have occupied the land of Australia for more than 60000 years and have evolved with the land by changing it and changing with it. For indigenous Australians, their land is the core of all spirituality and this relationship exists at the core of all such issues that matter to indigenous Australians. Aboriginal people have a shared living culture with their environment since long time. They do not regard land belonging to their group as private land. Therefore, the land cannot be bought and sold (Aboriginal Peoples’ connection to land, 2013). No single person owns. Rather, the whole land and all the things that live and thrive on it, are required to be looked after by the clan. They take care of the land and their survival depends on the knowledge of the land. Trade relations have been a major source of getting knowledge on what was happening in distant lands (The Land, n.d.). However, non-indigenous Australians have a different perspective on land. Although Europeans also needed land for their survival, but they wanted to claim as much land as possible, without sharing. Non-indigenous Australians simply saw land as something that could be well-exploited and used for their individualistic needs.

Traditional business attitudes to the environment

Traditionally, businesses do not focus on the sustainability issues of the environment. The main of any business is to make profit for its shareholders. A business uses energy and materials, discharge waste, and finally generate products and services. The business functions within the ecological system. In traditional perspective, business has regarded the natural environment as a free as well as an unlimited good. Pollution and depletion of resources are examples of situations where business’s pursuit of self-interest can make every other thing worse off. Many commercial activities have environmental consequences that are usually unpredictable and are often disruptive in nature (Blair & Hitchcock, 2001). Various examples show corporate involvement leading to environmental issues. In 2002, UNEP (United Nations Environmental Program) released a report, which stated that a growing gap could be observed between the efforts to reduce the impact of business activities on the environment and the worsening state of the planet (Woods, 2010).


Different types of sustainability

There are four types of sustainability. Human sustainability refers to maintenance of human capital. Human capital can be regarded as private good of individuals rather than between societies or individuals. It constitutes skills, health, nutrition, knowledge and access to services. Unlike institutions, life span of humans is finite and short requiring continual maintenance. Next is social sustainability. It includes maintenance of social capital, which comprises of investments and services for creation of basic framework for the society. It requires cohesion of community for connectedness, reciprocity, compassion, tolerance, love and fellowship. It depreciates if there are no cultural, religious and community interactions. Economic sustainability is maintenance of economic capital. Keeping the capital intact is necessary. Overcapitalization of manufactured capital is required to be avoided. Economic capital has a rare concern with natural concern, which includes healthy air, intact forests, etc. Environmental sustainability aims at improving human capital through protecting natural capital. Humanity has to learn to live within the limitations and boundaries of biophysical environment. Much of natural capital is converted to economic capital. Environmental sustainability ensures that harvest rate of renewable is kept within the regeneration rate (Rolston, 2003).

Concept of tragedy of commons

Hardin has given the concept of tragedy of commons. When it comes to use of commons, such as public or communal goods like water, air and wilderness, problems become visible for these commons as both individuals and companies follow their own self-interest. Each believes that his or her use of commons creates just a negligible impact. However, the cumulative result is problematic with greater destruction of the public domain. For example, over-fishing activity done by ships that are armed with advanced technology is leading to dramatic reduction of fish stock in the world, which is also threatening the survival of the industry itself. In the context of resource depletion, one can observe the disparity between the private and social costs. 100000 gallon of water is required to make an automobile. However, none of the manufacturer thinks of paying for the damage done to the water table (Shaw, 2010)).


Environmental sustainability as human right and ethical issue

Environmental sustainability is a human right and is a critical ethical issue. Human beings have the fundamental right to live in an environment that is adequate for their health. Environmental quality defines human quality. Future generations have the right to live in the same quality of environment in which present generation of human beings is living. It makes an appropriate sense to link human rights with sustainable development because the right to life cannot be realized until human have basic rights to safe air, land and water. Environmental human rights comprises of the right to have clean and safe environment, the right to act for protecting the environment and the right to information, access to justice and participation in environmental decision making. Environmental sustainability is an ethical issue as well. Humans require being healthy and environmental health is equally important. A report by World Commission on Environment and Development states that all human beings posses the right to have an adequate environment that supports their health and well-being. Human beings are mostly moved to act in their own self-interests and they can do this to the level of high degradation of the environment unless there is some environmental policy that gives them an incentive otherwise (Woods, 2010).

Role of consumers

Increasing consumerism plays an important role in increasing business activities in the world. Unlike non-indigenous people, indigenous aborigines have understood the importance of their lands and environment. Intimate knowledge of land, creatures and plants sit at the core of indigenous culture. Consumers consumed the products of the environment by rational use, thus developing many plant and animal based medicines. However, non-indigenous people drive their business activities based on demand of consumers (Australian Aboriginal Culture, n.d.). With increased awareness of environment, consumers are inclining towards the use of environment friendly products and therefore, companies are also putting efforts to contribute to environmental sustainability. With increased consumerism, a rise in number of environmental groups can also be seen that campaign for various issues such as environment friendly products. However, the latest trend and craze of green and ethical consumerism can prove to be just another way of making money by misrepresentation of facts (Wetherly & Otter, 2014).


Cost of environmental degradation

Human beings bear the cost of environmental degradation and pollution. When Europeans came into Australian lands and started acquiring their lands by force. It led to suffering of people ultimately. However, society at the collective level should bear the cost of environmental degradation. Environmental degradation has impact on variety of social groups. It affects in an adverse manner on the well-being, health and livelihood opportunities of the individuals due to depletion of natural resources. Environmental damage also exposes humans to increased risk of facing natural disasters, such as drought and flood (Environmental Degradation and Social Integration, 1994). Businesses make money and they have to change their traditional attitude towards the environmental sustainability. Those who are responsible for causing environmental degradation and pollution and those who can get benefit from protection as well as restoration of the environment should pay the cost. Although, businesses have made huge profits by treating the environment as the free good, but consumers have also benefitted from the same goods offered by businesses, by not having to pay any higher cost for the products they consume (Shaw, 2010)).

Right of business to use natural resources

Businesses have to use raw materials, resource and energy sources for manufacturing a range of products and offering services. However, sustainable use of natural resources of earth is required. Resources of earth belong to everyone. Everyone has the right to appropriate the concerned item and to use it. It comes under the universal-ownership view. A right balance between using and conserving earth’s natural resources are necessary (Blair & Hitchcock, 2001). Natural resources are not fabricated, thus cannot be considered as naturally attributable to any individual or business as private property. However, all have the need to use and utilize natural resources, thus inducing a right for doing so. However, natural resources belong to every individual on earth. Therefore, it is essential that sustainable use of these resources be encouraged so that these resources are not exhausted any time soon (Environment and Planning, n.d.).


Sustainable business

A business cannot be sustainable if it uses all the finite resources of earth. Rapid growing consumption of finite resources of earth is leading to cause severe damage in the form of change in the climate, shrink in the fish stocks, fresh water reserves and forests. For continuing of life on the planet, adoption of sustainable approach is necessary. Businesses today extract and use almost 50% more natural resources in comparison to what they used to do 30 years ago. The rate of extraction is 60 billion tons of raw materials approximately. Increasing extraction of resources does not lead to just their depletion and subsequent environmental problems, but it also creates social problems, such as violations of human rights and poor working conditions. Given the current trend of growth of the world, the extraction of earth’s finite resources could increase to 100 billion tons by 2030 (Overconsumption- Our use of the world´s natural resources, 2013). Environmental impact of use of natural resources is severe. Emissions to water and air because of business activities are dispersed and deposited, which creates higher environmental concentrations and loss of environmental quality. Businesses need natural resources for their business activities; therefore sustainable use of these resources is essential (Environmental Impact of the use of Natural Resources and Products, 2009).


Environment and business sustainability can be promoted through governments giving incentives in the form of subsidy, investment and other general incentives. For example, the government can give a tax break to the firm for purchase and use of pollution control equipments. For example, ‘Future Gen’ project launched in 2003 committed the US government to underwrite 80 percent of $1 billion for development of coal-fired plants that emit no greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. It increases voluntary support from businesses to make efforts towards environmental sustainability. Pollution permits is another approach for making both the business and the environment sustainable (Shaw, 2010). Thus, businesses can discharge a limited amount of pollution and can also buy and sell the rights for pollution emissions. In this way, companies with low pollution levels can make money while companies with large levels of pollution can judge whether it is good to go for cleaner environment procedures or keep paying money to release pollutants in the environment (Shaw, 2010). The theory of ethics of care goes well for the above approaches. It emphasizes on the importance of response. As all individuals are interdependent on one another, the above approaches give importance to response of businesses towards adopting environmental sustainability methods and shows interdependence of various institutions in the society (Slote, 2007).


Indigenous and non-indigenous people have different approaches towards treatment of their land and environment. Indigenous people considered land as part of their survival and spirituality, while non-indigenous people consider it as a means to exploit and use for self-interest. Only a small number of businesses actually consider about the state of the environment and considering environmental factors while taking business decisions. Some corporations may wish to take environmental considerations into regard but they fear that competitors will get away with such concerns. Both business and environmental sustainability is important. By following appropriate methods, sustainability can be attained.



Aboriginal Peoples’ connection to land. (2013). Retrieved May 11, 2014, from https://www.qm.qld.gov.au/Find+out+about/Aboriginal+and+Torres+Strait+Islander+Cultures/Land#.U27fPIGSy8l
Australian Aboriginal Culture. (n.d.). Retrieved May 11, 2014, from https://www.aboriginalarts.co.uk/aboriginal_culture.htm
Blair, A.M. & Hitchcock, D. (2001). Environment and Business. Psychology Press.
Environment and Planning. (n.d.). Retrieved May 11, 2014, from https://www.thenewearth.org/4enviro.html
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Rolston, H. (2003). Environmental Ethics. Oxford: Blackwell Publishing.
Shaw, W. (2010). Cengage Advantage Books: Business Ethics: A Textbook with Cases. Mason: Cengage Learning.
Slote, M. (2007). The Ethics of Care and Empathy. London: Routledge.
The Land. (n.d.). Retrieved May 11, 2014, from https://australianmuseum.net.au/Indigenous-Australia-The-Land
Wetherly, P. & Otter, D. (2014). The Business Environment: Themes and Issues in a Globalizing World. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Woods, K. (2010). Human Rights and Environmental Sustainability. Massachusetts: Edward Elgar Publishing.

June 30, 2016