Soya milk episode a lesson in ethics

Mr Daniel Chan Wai Piew has raised some very pertinent questions ("Soya milk 'mistake' a serious matter"; last Friday) and the Consumers Association of Singapore (Case) should investigate the matter thoroughly.

But Case or any government agency cannot be expected to be constantly on guard against such unethical practices. Therefore, it is up to us, as ordinary citizens, to report such actions to the authorities, so that the matter may be properly investigated.

The onus is also on business leaders to operate ethically.

Business and political leaders today must answer to a higher standard of ethics.

The law may allow the purchase of soya milk from one vendor and its repackaging and sale under a different brand at a higher price.

But the real question here is not if such actions are legal but if they are ethical.

The law sets the baseline - or the "floor"- of what can be done.

Ethics, on the other hand, is the ceiling which we should all strive towards. It reflects on the doer; whether he simply accepts what the law allows and ignores the fact that the action is, in itself, unethical.

When a business or individual fails to comply with a set of ethics, one cannot help but question the moral compass of that business or individual.

Perhaps, we need to introduce a mandatory lesson in business ethics as part of a graduate curriculum. Or, perhaps, we should even introduce ethics as a course of study in primary schools to set a foundation early in life.

The practice of ethics is doing the right thing even when no one is looking.

Matthew Ong Koon Lock

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 11, 2015, with the headline 'Soya milk episode a lesson in ethics'. Print Edition | Subscribe