Is That Ethical? Italian Cruise Disaster Sparks Leadership Questions  Credit: © Lupoalb68 | Dreamstime.com

By now everyone has heard the story of the capsized Costa Concordia cruise ship and its captain, Francesco Schettino, who has come under fire for abandoning the ship as it was sinking.  Although the saying is, "the captain should go down with the ship," many people are not exactly sure of the ethical consequences of the situation.  

While many people will have different responses to this particular episode, the sinking of the Costa Concordia has raised the interesting question of what is a business leader or owner's ethical responsibility to his or her customers and employees when facing a life-threatening or dangerous situation?

According to Ann Buchholtz, professor of leadership and ethics and research director at the Institute for Ethical Leadership at Rutgers Business School, leaders must ensure safety to employees and consumers, regardless of the situation.   

"Safety from harm is one of the basic rights of consumers," Buchholtz told BusinessNewsDaily. "In fact, we are approaching the 50th anniversary of the 'Consumer Bill of Rights' that President Kennedy introduced in a speech to Congress (on March 15). The first, and arguably the most basic right, is the right to safety – 'to be protected against the marketing of goods which are hazardous to health or life.' Of course, the use of any product or service entails some degree of risk, but what happened to the Costa Concordia passengers is beyond the pale."

"When someone possesses a right, there is a corresponding duty, and in this case the leaders had a duty to protect the safety of their customers," Buchholtz said.

"Is That Ethical?" is a BusinessNewsDaily series in which we examine the ethics of business and acknowledge the ethical dilemmas businesses face every day.

Reach BusinessNewsDaily staff writer David Mielach at Dmielach@techmedianetwork.com. Follow him on Twitter @D_M89.