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2022 Spring

BUSINESS ETHICS - MGT301 Spring 2022

Gabriele Meissner
For information about registration please contact our admissions.

This course aims to provide students with solid skills to know and deal with the fundamentals of ethics. They are enabled to analyze business, social and environmental issues that are relevant to the development of Corporate Social Responsibility and sustainable business practices. The course focuses on the CSR practices of Multi-national Corporations (MNCs), the challenges and opportunities of acting responsibly in the arena often called “the global village”. It also assesses the role of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in acting responsibly in a highly competitive environment. It discusses government strategies to attract Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) and the dilemmas these present for responsible business practice and the complex interactions between stakeholders, firms, and government. The course provides a comprehensive introduction to ethical considerations in business. Students are enabled to develop a deeper understanding of how to act responsibly towards all business stakeholders while, at the same time, not neglecting the firm‘s profitability. The course will discuss models of how CSR can create a sustainable ROI for companies. Students are encouraged to gain awareness of the interconnectedness of organizations and nations in a globalized world and how their actions as managers will affect different stakeholders, nations and the world as a whole.

The alarming high number of cases of corruption, fraud, money laundering and other criminal activities make it essential to reflect what is behind all these cases. The investigated and prosecuted companies usually pay huge fines, but the individuals who actually committed these crimes are seldom accused or convicted. Compliance, acting within the legal frameworks is part of responsible business. This is one of the major issues of excellent leadership.

But it is not all. Very often decisions are taken in a sort of grey zone, and it is the task of the manager to decide on right and wrong. Unethical behavior - like taking excessive risks for example with customers investments, environmental damage, discrimination, bullying etc. - is damaging the reputation of a company. So the question is also how do people in an organization behave as individuals. Being "good" is not only a marketing matter, it has an impact on how we want to live in our societies and how you, the young generation, want to create your future. 

Corporate Social Responsibility programs involving efficient control systems up to the very top are a way to create value driven organizations, which are not prone to unethical or criminal behavior. 

The course will explore cases, methods and tools. It will train your perception of conflicts and help you to develop your own point of view.


Here is the course outline:

1. Introduction

Feb 4

Why is Business Ethics important? What impact has unethical resp. illegal behavior on companies and economies? We will start to look into the data about illegal and unethical individual and organizational behavior.

2. Corporate Governance, Stakeholder Management and Compliance

Feb 11

Stakeholder management is the process of managing the expectations of all groups and people who have an interest in a project, organization or business.

3. History of Governance, Philosophy and Compliance

Feb 18

The topics, which still engage and bother us are as old as the world (this doesn't give humankind a very good testimonial on the ability to solve problems once and for all).

4. Corporate Culture

Feb 25

Culture has a powerful effect on how people in an organization behave and act. It shapes to a large extent how individuals and organizations take decisions.

5. Corporate Social Responsibility Programs

Mar 4

Organizations introduce CSR programs to be able to cope with moral, ethical and stakeholder requirements.

6. On Decision Making - Rational or Irrational?

Mar 11

The research of Behavioral Economists have unveiled a lot of myths about how people - and organizations - take decisions. Human decisions are to a certain extent always irrational. Researchers have found that executive management to a very large extent take decisions based on gut feelings - which means only on individual experiences in the past. This is a special challenge for organizations. Neuroscience also tells us how easy it is to manipulate memory - this includes the supply of false or at least flawed or incomplete data. So how can modern leaders and managers make use of the current research and learn to make better decisions which better fit with future challenges?

7. Globalization / Inequality

Apr 1

The rising inequality and destruction of the middle class in Western economies has a negative impact on democracy and national economies in general. Firms need to develop a clear set of values and propositions on how to deal with the challenges posed by globalization.

8. Criminal Capital / Money Laundering

Apr 8

Illicit financial flows from developing countries and ongoing strategies of criminal organizations to somehow fuel "dirty" money into the regular legal economy pose an enormous risk for our societies. The finance industry is still not willing to do whatever is needed to prevent money laundering for organized crime, terrorists and other illegal market players.

9. Technology, Cyber Crime and the Dark Web

Apr 15

Digitalization gives all sorts of criminals new opportunities. It affects businesses as victims but it also offers them new business models to gain illegal profits or to encourage unethical behavior.

10. Corruption

Apr 22

Corruption creates cleptocracies - oligarchies, which create a deeply rooted inequality. This leads to injustice, anger and finally terrorism.

11. Economic Crises

Apr 29

The reasons for the economic crisis in 2008 were excessive risk taking in the finance industry based on the creation of complex finance products, which in the end nobody really understood.

12. The Hidden Wealth of Nations: Tax Avoidance / Tax Evasion

May 6

Tax avoidance and tax evasion takes trillions of dollars out of countries. "In the United States, corporations book 20% of their profits in tax havens – a tenfold increase since the 1980s – and tax avoidance reduces corporate tax revenues by up to a third. Globally, 8% of the world’s personal financial wealth is held offshore, costing more than $200bn to governments annually. Despite ambitious policy initiatives, profit shifting to tax havens and offshore wealth are rising." (Zuman, 2014)

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