S230008 (6 credits)

Is it ok to lie in your cv? Can a manager justify paying a small bribe in order to get the deal? What can I do if my boss wants me to do inflate the numbers in my sales report?

Ethical dilemmas like this happen every day in business. Nevertheless, it is often argued that business and ethics do not mix. In today’s society, the public opinion on the ethics and trustworthiness is at an all-time low. On the other hand, more and more companies initiate business ethics and compliance programs or engage in Corporate Social Responsibility. In this course, we will explore, why ethics and business seem to be stuck in an eternal love-hate relationship. We will get an overview of important ethical theories that can be useful tools of critical thinking that will help us analyse moral dilemmas in business. Case studies and films will be used to understand the role of (un)ethical decision making in business. Finally, we will see what leaders and organisations have to do in order to promote business ethics successfully.

The course is divided in two independent parts: This first part focuses on business ethics whereas the second part will deal mostly with Corporate Social Responsibility.

When you go shopping and the label in the t-shirt you want to buy says “Made in Bangladesh”, chances are high that the people who made this t-shirt are working under harsh conditions: 12-hour work-days, below-minimum wages, hot workplaces with little or no drinking water, harassment by line managers, forced overtime, bad safety situation etc.

When you buy chocolate, chances are high that the raw material for your treat came from Ivory Coast. Cocoa plantations in this country are notorious for using child and slave labor.

When you throw away your computer, chances are high that it will not be recycles properly, but shipped to Africa where poor people, who have no choice, burn the plastic parts to pick out the precious metals inside, but also inhaling toxic fumes.

All of these inhumane and environmentally destructive practices take place within the supply chains of the companies whose products we buy. However, are companies responsible for this? Or is it rather the consumer who only cares about low prices? What can companies do to avoid this harm-doing? What can consumers do? What role play the government, NGO’s, unions, the media?

These are the burning questions we will tackle in this part of the course.