Assessment #1 – Reflective Journal
Critical reflection is a crucial part of the ethical skillset. Students will keep a reflective journal throughout the course to determine their key takeaways from every session.
More specifically, for each topic, students are asked to write approx. 300 words (one page) on:
- what they take away from the topic’s session
- why they think the topic is important
- how would they apply the topic to their future professional career
Finally, students are asked to write and submit their final reflections (approx. 1000 words) on the entire course –
Students are asked to upload their topic-reflections and the final reflection to the Learn online site.
Topic-1: Business in an environment of contested values – The importance of business Ethics and an introduction to the course
This session introduces the course, sets the tone and explores the various facets of business ethics in the 21st century.
We will provide a short overview of ethical theories and their relevance in understanding corporate responsibility. Subsequently, we will explore why ethical issues can make or break a corporation – and why ethics must be an integral part of doing business.
Topic-2: What’s a business for? Purpose and Perspective – Is the purpose of business to make profit
Is the purpose of business to make a profit or is profit a means towards wealth creation for a variety of stakeholders? In other words, what’s a business for? What’s its purpose and what role does the purpose of a corporation play in motivating people? “Why should anyone work here?” is a legitimate and important question a business has to ask itself.
We explore the relevance of purpose in relation to running a meaningful and responsible business and thus why a profit only-motive may lead to severe shortcomings and corporate failure when operating in an environment of contested values.
Mackay, John &Sisodia, Raj (2013), Conscious Capitalism, Harvard Business School Publications, Chapters 3 and 4 pp.41-67
Handy, Charles (2002), what’s a business for? Harvard Business Review. 27: 3-8.
Polman, P. & Ignatius, A. (2012). Captain Planet. Harvard Business Review, 37, 2-8.
Topic-3: Stakeholder management – Unveilingthecrucibles of responsible and effective stakeholder management
Stakeholder management and diversity is a topic of specific relevance and importance in the global arena, where managers are often confronted with different stakeholder groups (e.g., NGOs, environmental activists, media, regulators, indigenous communities) who have diverse cultural backgrounds, different value-systems and mind-sets, and often conflicting interests and claims. Coping with a plurality of stakeholder groups, and balancing conflicts of interests while tackling social, political, ecological, and ethical issues is a challenging task for which managers often seem to be relatively ill-prepared.
In the second half of the session, we will explore the crucibles of successful – and that means responsible and effective – stakeholder management, including the determination of stakeholder legitimacy and how to deal with fringe stakeholders.
- Learn about the impact of decision making on stakeholder opinions, on profit and get immediate feedback from stakeholders (e.g. via email, phone, media responses)
Freeman, R. (1998). A stakeholder theory of the modern corporation. In Clarkson, M. B. E. (Ed.) The corporation and its stakeholders: Classic and contemporary readings (pp. 125-138). Toronto: University of Toronto Press.
Mitchell, R.K., Agell, R.A. & Wood, D.J. (1997) Toward a Theory of Stakeholder Identification and Salience, Academy of Management Review, 22, 4, 853-886.
Topic-4: Corporate Social Responsibility – making sense of how companies organise the interface of business society
Thissessionstartswith a brief history of CSR, followed by an induction into a comprehensive framework entitled the responsible character matrix. Thisframeworkdifferentiatesorganizations in two dimensions: intentions (profit-driven versus purpose-driven) and actions (narrow versus broad stakeholder focus) leading to four responsibility archetypes (economist, strategist, integrator and idealist). A reference will be made to the simulation exercise that highlight show different intentions can lead to different outcomes regarding economic, social, and environmental performance. In the third part of the session, we discuss in groups and in light of the corresponding literature the consequences of these mindsets (e.g., Friedman economist position; Porterforstrategistarchetype; Freemanforintegrativeorientation; and Mairforidealistapproach) for the socially responsible approach of organisations. Themes will include the quality of social value creation, and social innovation – specifically with regard to time (short-term vs. long-term focus); breadth of stakeholder engagement; and the quality of organisational solutions (incremental vs. radical, first-order and second-order). The limitations, traps, and opportunities for all four approaches are discussed, and new developments such as hybrid forms of organisations are exemplified.
Friedman, M. 1970. The social responsibility of business is to increase its profits. New York Times Magazine, September 13: 126.
Porter, M. E. & Kramer, M. R. (2006).Strategy & Society.The link between competitive advantage and corporate social responsibility. Harvard Business Review, 31: 78–92.
Pless, N.M., Maak, T. & Waldman, D. (2012). Different approaches toward doing the right thing: Mapping the responsibility orientations of leaders. Academy of Management Perspectives, 26(4), 51-65.
Mair, J., & Marti, I. (2006). Social entrepreneurship research: A source of explanation, prediction, and delight. Journal of World Business, 41, 36–44.
Topic-5: Business as an agent of world benefit and the importance of social innovation
This session is dedicated to exploring businesses’ role as an agent of world benefit. More specifically, we will explore the call for political responsibilities of companies and the concurring organisational power to make a difference. We live in a shared-power world (Crosby & Bryson) and large business organisations have become some of the today’s most powerful institutions. According to UNCTAD data, more than half of the world’s largest economies are companies, not nation states. But how, and to what extent, should we expect businesses to adopt political responsibilities? What of businesses’ role in promoting human right? And, what of their responsibilities for social wealth creation?
Students are asked to explore these and related questions through the work on a real-life case, that is a specific example where social actors embrace the new political responsibilities in innovative ways.
You will work on the real-life case Gram Vikas (GV), an award-winning social enterprise and rural development organisation headquartered in Orissa, one of India’s poorest states. The organisation’s vision is to achieve an equitable and sustainable society where people can live in peace and dignity. The enterprise realises this vision by helping communities in rural villages gain access to clean water and establish water and sanitation systems as a basis for improving health, restoring dignity, empowering women, and breaking the vicious circle of poverty. You will learn how the idealistic approach of one person can make a major difference and start a chain reaction of socio-economic development within villages in the region – and begin a process of change towards greater social and gender equality.
Pless, N.M. & Appel, J. (2012). In pursuit of dignity & social justice: Changing lives through 100% inclusion – how Gram Vikas fosters sustainable rural development. Journal of Business Ethics. 111,3, 389-411.
Maak, T. (2009) Cosmopolitical Corporation. Journal of Business Ethics, 84: 361-372.
Prahalad& Hammond (2002), Serving the world’s poor. Harvard Business Review., 27: 1-12.
Topic-6: Ethical approaches to deal with daily temptations and weakness of will
Dealing with ethical issues in the daily round of leadership and management. Distinguishing dilemmas from the weakness of will. What are the ethical aspects of bribery, corruption, conflict of interest, insider trading, boycotts and public campaigns? Tools to develop and enhance the capacity to act ethically, especially where values are contested.
Bailes, Robert 2006. Facilitation payments: culturally acceptable or unacceptably corrupt? Business ethics: a European review v. 15, no. 3, pp. 293-298
Pohlmann, Markus, Kristina Bitsch, and Julian Klinkhammer. 2016. “Personal Gain or Organisational Benefits? How to Explain Active Corruption.” German Law Journal 17 (1):73-99.
Topic-7: Part of the solution or part of the problem? – Why sustainability is every company’s business
The term, sustainable development, was popularised in Our Common Future, a report published by the World Commission on Environment and Development (WCED) in 1987. Also known as the Brundt land report, Our Common Future included the “classic” definition of sustainable development: “development which meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs” (IISD 2010).
According to a recent survey by the World Economic Forum (2015), social and environmental risks are amongst the top five issues that keep CEOs awake at night. KPMG (2013) suggests that nearly 80% of CEOs now consider social and environmental sustainability as a key strategic area.
Sustainability is nowadays accepted by all stakeholders as a guiding principle for both public policy making and corporate strategies. However, the biggest challenge for most organisations remains in the real and substantial implementation of the sustainability concept. This session explores why sustainability is every company’s business.
This topic will be discussed from two aspects:
Sustainable business principles, which includes definitions, scope, interpretations, historical development, the sustainable enterprise, ethical frameworks, nature of the sustainable firm, and indices and measurements
Sustainable business practice, which includes Triple bottom line concepts, business practices in environmental management, sustainable marketing, social marketing, sustainable production, life cycle assessments and organisational changes.
The principles and practices will be linked to and discussed with two case studies: Interface (sustainable management leadership) and James Hardie (lessons in avoiding responsibility). Cases will be distributed in class.
Lovins AB, Lovins LH & Hawken P 2007, A road map for natural capitalism, Harvard Business Review July/August 2007, vol 85 no. 7/8, pp. 172-183
Norman, W., & MacDonald, C. (2004).Getting to the bottom of “triple bottom line”, Business Ethics Quarterly, vol 14 no. 2, pp.243-262.
Porter, M. E., & van der Linde, C. (1995). Green and competitive: Ending the stalemate, Harvard Business Review, vol 73 no. 5, pp.120-134.
Topic-8: Ethics and power in organisations – why power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely
There is a saying, contributed to Lord Acton: “Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” And while much has changed in modern-day organisations power struggles, the abuse of power, and the ‘stretching’ of ethical principles remain a feature of organisational life, often with increased complexity due to changes in the global operating environment of businesses. Power struggles take place both inside and outside the organisation and are a frequent feature of M&A-activity. They occur openly or hidden and in both, low power distance-cultures and high power distance-cultures. Often, in the course of these conflicts ethical principles are prone to be violated – human dignity, recognition, or integrity – such that a proper understanding of the multi-level dynamics of ethics and power in organisations becomes a key ingredient for individual hygiene, success, and even survival.
The relevance and ethical dimension of power in organizational and institutional settings are best understood by revisiting Zimbardo’s work on the systemic nature of power, specifically the Stanford prison experiment (1971) and related research on how good people turn evil or, how ordinary people follow blind patterns of obedience in light of greater causes or the presence of expert power. The objective of this session is to equip students with a detailed view of the institutional forces of power, its dynamic nature, and the different forms and variations of power in and beyond organizations – while considering the ethical consequences of the use, and abuse, of power.
Fincham, R. & Rhodes, P. (2005).Power and organizations. In: Principles of organizational behavior, 4th ed., ch. 16.
Zimbardo, P. (2007). The Lucifer Effect. How good people turn evil. Ebury/Random House, pp. 258-293 (background reading
Topic-9: When is different and when is different wrong? Ethical decision-making and business ethics across cultures
In this session, we will explore the role of ethical decision-making in the intercultural management context. We will specifically ask the question what happens if power distribution and cultural dimensions are interpreted in the wrong way. By looking at both a positive and a negative case example, students will better understand when different is different and when different is wrong and how to navigate cultural distance in responsible ways.
Donaldson, T. (1996) Values in Tension.Ethics Away from Home. Harvard Business Review, 21: 4-12.
Schraa-Liu, T. and Trompenaars, F. (2006).‘Towards responsible leadership through reconciling dilemmas’. In T. Maak and N. M. Pless (Eds.), Responsible Leadership (138-154). London, New York: Routledge.
Case Sanlu Fonterra
Case Levi Strauss
Cases will be distributed in class
Topic-10: Responsible leadership and its development – Taking charge, being accountable, implementing positive futures
In this session weak what responsible leadership entails, why it is indispensable in an environment of contested values and how it can be developed.
Responsible leadership is among the key challenges of businesses – nationally and globally. While many companies have implemented CSR approaches, have ethics officers and invest in sustainable business practices not many follow a clear and integrated approach towards responsible management. Piecemeal approaches and lack of commitment are often a consequence of a leadership deficit and thus not demonstrating responsible leadership. Responsible leadership has been defined as the art of building sustainable relationships with all relevant stakeholders with the purpose of creating wealth for a broad range of stakeholders and thus the benefit of society at large. It also connotes the individual responsibilities of business leaders to take charge and demonstrate accountability.
Maak, T. &Pless, N.M. 2006.Responsible Leadership in a Stakeholder Society.A Relational Perspective. Journal of Business Ethics, 66(1), 99-115.
Pless, N.M., Maak, T., Stahl G.K. (2011).Developing Responsible Global Leaders through International Service Learning Programs – The Ulysses Experience at PricewaterhouseCoopers. Academy of Management Learning & Education, 10(2), 237-260.
Maak, T. &Pless, N.M. (Eds.) (2006). Responsible Leadership. London, New York: Routledge.
Badaracco, J. L. (2014) Rethinking responsible leadership.Harvard Business School Press.