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Business Ethics: Contemporary Issues and Cases, 1st Edition
Author: Richard A. Spinello (Author)
An innovative text that aims to deepen students’ knowledge of business ethics through a multidisciplinary approach grounded in moral philosophy, management principles, business history, and economics.
The text aims to help students make ethical decisions, demonstrate integrity in the workplace, and advocate for moral business practices. It also features content on further trends and topics that will help students build a deeper understanding of business ethics:
- A section on Personal Integrity in the workplace, unpacks ethical dilemmas that face employees in the workplace including conflicts of interest, cheating, whistle blowing, and bribery.
- A section on Corporate Values and Responsibilities delves into ethical issues related to the financial industry, competition, safety, privacy, and intellectual property.
- A section on Global Capitalism examines the ethical issues related to culture, justice, the internet, and environmental issues around the world.
All content is supported by 40 contemporary case studies that allow students to grapple with a wide range of moral issues and apply ethical frameworks to a variety of situations at real-world organizations, including GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) in China, Firestone in Liberia, and the Apple Encryption Controversy.
The book is complemented by online resources for instructors and students, including: Test Bank, PowerPoint slides, an Instructor’s Manual with extensive case notes, Exercises and Activities, Multimedia resources, Quizzes, Flashcards, and SAGE Journal Articles.
Suitable reading for undergraduate students on Business Ethics courses.
Business Ethics: Contemporary Issues and Cases is designed primarily as a core textbook for courses such as Business Ethics, Corporations and Morality, Business and Society, and The Moral Aspects of Corporate Leadership. Although Business Ethics: Contemporary Issues and Cases is primarily a casebook, it contains some background on capitalism and the nature of the corporation along with relevant theoretical material on ethics and corporate social responsibility. It also incorporates a number of briefings on public policy and management issues that may be unfamiliar to students (such as intellectual property rights, privacy and cybersecurity, bribery laws, and employee rights). While we focus almost exclusively on contemporary moral dilemmas and calamities, some older cases are included to give students historical perspective. The last several decades are littered with infamous corporate scandals that have damaged the reputation of whole industries and even the capitalist system itself, and
students should have some familiarity with a few of these legendary ethical debacles.
Historical context can also help us to appreciate current cases such as the safety crises involving the Chevy Cobalt’s faulty ignition switch and the defective Takata airbag. The automotive industry briefing provides an overview of the safety woes that have bedeviled this industry for many years so students can discern problematic patterns of behavior that resurface in those incidents. Similarly, we review the history of global capitalism, which vividly reveals the limits of the multinational corporation’s ability to manage social and ethical issues effectively.
The aim of this book is to deepen every student’s knowledge of business ethics, corporate social responsibility, and the management of nonmarket issues through an interdisciplinary methodology based on ethical theory, management principles, business history, political philosophy, and economics. Business students should not see management instruction as isolated from other disciplines such as economics, philosophy, and history.
The ultimate goal is to help educate versatile corporate and organizational managers who are capable of making sound and responsible ethical choices and defending those choices with intellectual coherence and credibility.
The book is divided along the simplest lines possible into five parts. The first section is composed of theoretical material and provides a broad context for the case studies that follow. The theme of free-market
capitalism is the springboard for an exposition of the book’s overarching framework, which is centered on corporate purpose, defined in terms of the common good for which the corporation is organized. From this foundation, we derive the corporation’s three fundamental obligations to society: create economic value, comply with all relevant laws and regulations, and observe common ethical principles. A second framework, which captures those ethical standards in a formula, is known by the acronym DRJ (duties-rights-justice). It is based on several traditional ethical theories that are explained with as much clarity and conciseness as possible.
The next four sections turn to the case studies, which are organized around three major themes: personal values, corporate values, and multinational responsibilities. These chapters keep clearly in view the perspectives of Part I. The first set of cases in Part II involve individuals struggling with different moral dilemmas, hoping to preserve their integrity in the workplace. The issues covered here include promise-breaking, deception, fraud, lying, cheating, and whistle-blowing. Parts III and IV look at the corporation’s values and its responsibilities to different external constituencies, such as customers and shareholders, and internal constituencies, such as employees. It focuses on the challenge of integrating competitive strategy with socially responsible behavior. The cases in these sections cover a range of topics: employee privacy rights, insider trading, marketing predatory products, product safety, environmental integrity, equitable pricing, fair competition, privacy, and cybersecurity. Some of the specific cases include Hobby Lobby’s claim to religious liberty, Apple’s contentious fight with the FBI over privacy, Volkswagen’s “Dieselgate,” Takata’s airbag controversy, Microsoft’s anticompetitive tactics in the browser wars, the LIBOR scandal at Barclays Bank, the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, and Valeant Pharmaceuticals’ pricing strategy.
Part V is dedicated to cases involving multinational companies doing business abroad. One of the defining features of the new economy is the immense volume of global expansion through foreign direct investment. But investing in different political and cultural environments poses challenges for multinational corporations. They have struggled to develop policies respecting cultural diversity without accommodating injustice.
Key themes in this section are the scope of corporate political activism abroad and the extent to which a multinational enterprise should adopt the customs and moral norms of a particular culture. Cases include Firestone’s decision to support the dictator Charles Taylor in order to keep its rubber plantation in Liberia, ITT’s misadventure in Chile, and worker abuses at Foxconn and Pegatron, two Asian companies making Apple products. Finally, a word or two should be said about the state of business ethics and why this field continues to be of such crucial importance. The business ethics course is by no means a novel enhancement of the management curriculum. The Harvard Graduate School of Business Administration, founded in 1908, offered its first course on social issues in business in 1915, called Social Factors in Business Enterprise. Starting in 1928, Harvard offered an elective business ethics course. Harvard was not alone in this commitment to business ethics. By 1931, a number of schools had developed formal instruction on the ethical aspects of business conduct.
Arguably, these courses have taken on a new urgency because of the proliferation of recent scandals that have touched virtually every major industry. There seems no end to this corporate malfeasance. As one
reporter opined, “almost every year, it seems, some scandal envelops a Fortune 500 company and causes a new spasm of public distrust of big corporations.” 2 For pragmatic reasons alone, corporations should take ethics more seriously, and ethical coursework can certainly help. Fortunately, virtually every business school offers these courses, and in most cases they are a vital component of the business core. Harvard Business School, for example, teaches Leadership and Corporate Accountability to its first-year MBA students. The London Business School has offered a required ethics course for many years. And Catholic University of America has opened the School of Business and Economics, where the entire curriculum revolves around ethical and social issues.
Some students, of course, resist an ethics requirement. However, pragmatic students who question whether or not this course is worth taking should recognize the intrinsic value of business ethics courses. Lynn Sharp Paine, professor at the Harvard Business School, has made a compelling case that “moral thinking . . . is as essential for managers of profit-making businesses as the strategic or instrumental thinking which comprises the bulk of the typical business school curriculum.” 3 A rigorous ethics course based on sound classroom material helps students to ponder business in a broader context so that they can become flexible thinkers with critical skills and can perceive the subtleties embedded in most moral dilemmas.
We hope this book will contribute to such a positive classroom experience. We also hope every student enjoys and profits from this book—it should inspire you to solve problems creatively and to always think beyond the bottom line.