Background and Stakeholders
Business ethics education is a field of growing interest worldwide. Its relevance is expressed in the UN initiatives like the Global Compact, the Principles for Responsible Management Education (PRME), and the UN Decade for Education for Sustainable Development.
There are several stakeholders in business ethics education: firms, managers, educational institutions like business schools or universities, faculty and students.
(1) Businesses experience every day that their activities are critically put into question with regard to e.g. sustainability issues, supply chain ethics, or corporate citizenship. Firms as well as their stakeholders are confronted with moral requests in the form of the daily problems and decisions. However, the majority of people working in or for organizations are not adequately educated for ethical decision making.
(2) Managers are in between the morality of the organizations they work for, the morality of the markets their organizations wants to serve, and their personal moral standards. Ethics education shall help them to find a way through the moral mazes – even though there might be no “one best way” or the “right way.” Ethics education should provide managers with knowledge about the understanding of problems at the intersection of business and ethics, it should develop their ethical competences and decision-making abilities. Business ethics education should contribute to the development of a kind of occupational ethic for managers addressing their specific fields of expertise (finance, marketing, accounting, etc.).
(3) It is the responsibility of higher education institutions to educate their students, i.e. to grow their knowledge, to develop their competences, and to train their decision-making abilities. Though the number of business schools, universities, or other institutions which are dedicated to ethics education is growing, their number is still disappointingly small.
We do not believe that this is only a sign of ignorance. It can also be a sign for the insufficiency of the available knowledge about how to put business ethics education into practice. A clearer specification of the contents and ends of business ethics education can increase the chance that business ethics becomes a standard and highly valued component of education in business schools and universities.
(4) Business or management students have reacted to the societal challenges put on organizations. As the increasing demand of students for instruction in business ethics indicates, they want to develop their respective occupational competences. How can their demand be met by the courses professors and faculty offer on a regularly basis? How can co-teaching between business ethicists and management scholars be developed and fruitfully linked with the regular course offerings? There are no hundreds of scholars able to teach business ethics from the start, and the higher education institutions will not be able to hire new faculty in great quantities. Professors and faculty in the classroom need support in their endeavor to implement business ethics into their teaching.