ELE 3710 Business and Professional Ethics


ELE 3710 Business and Professional Ethics

Responsible for the course
Johannes Brinkmann

Department of Strategy and Logistics

According to study plan

ECTS Credits

Language of instruction

Business and professional ethics as an academic field has two main functions. On the one hand, ethics is potentially helpful when it comes to analyzing, handling and not least preventing moral conflict cases in business contexts. On the other hand, business ethics invites a critical look at business professional roles and at business practices. The course emphasizes work on cases and reflects that the subject business and professional ethics is (should be) a field of listening, reflection and discussion (rather than a preaching discipline).
Read perhaps as a first step-by-step presentation: "Ethics" most often refers to a domain of inquiry, a discipline, in which matters of right and wrong, good and evil, virtue and vice, are systematically examined. "Morality", by contrast, is most often used to refer not to a discipline but to patterns of thought and action that are actually operative in everyday life. In this sense, morality is what the discipline of ethics is about. And so business morality is what business ethics is about" (source: K. E. Goodpaster).
Or watch perhaps a popular presentation of what the field is about such as the one by St Gallen university: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E0NkGtNU_9w

Learning outcome
Acquired knowledge
After completing the course, students should:

  • know the most important terminology, theories and authors' names within normative and descriptive ethical theory
  • understand the strengths and weaknesses of chosen approaches

Acquired skills
On completion of the course students should:
  • be able to apply concepts and theories fruitfully and critically to business ethical and professional ethical problems in the literature as well as in real business and business school life
  • be able to draft and organize work with real moral conflict situations and business contexts
  • be able to identify ethical aspects in other business school subjects
  • be able to ask critical questions about such theories and about business practices

  • Ethics means reflection about complexity, dilemmas, questions of right and wrong, in this case in business and professional contexts
  • After completing the course, students should have acquired a reflected attitude when it comes to their own morality, i.e. have developed personal ethics and a sense of social responsibility as a business school graduate and have acquired an ability and a willingness to follow up words with deeds, never forgetting that business ethics is about the wise and responsible balancing of business and non-business considerations

No special prerequisites are required.

Compulsory reading
Crane, Andrew, Dirk Matten. 2010. Business ethics : managing corporate citizenship and sustainability in the age of globalization. 3rd ed. Oxford University Press. Students may replace the whole Crane&Matten book or chapters of it by a comparable text (in agreement with the teacher)

Collection of articles:
Brinkmann, J., ed.. 2010. Texts in Business and professional ethics. Handelshøyskolen BI. A few additional texts will be made available for free via It's Learning

Recommended reading
Brinkmann, Johannes. 2008. Ubehagelig næringslivsetikk : en essaysamling. Licentia forlag

Course outline
  • Why moral conflict cases are ubiquitous
  • Cases sorted by fields, with debriefing and discussion: human resource management ethics, marketing and PR ethics, professional ethics, environmental ethics, cross-cultural business ethics
  • Business and professional ethics – additional topics and approaches
  • Business ethics as a research and a teaching discipline
  • Different approaches to moral philosophy. With a focus on discourse ethics and a socratic dialogue in the Nelson-Heckmann tradition, see about the latter perhaps http://www.sfcp.org.uk/socratic-dialogue-2/
  • Summarizing and transcending the case-focus: business ethics as professional ethics

Computer-based tools
No specified computer-based tools are required, but the course exploits and refers to useful web-based resources

Learning process and workload
The students are expected to document their learning process across various assignments and in a minimum diary (see below). The work on the term paper begins typically two weeks after the start of the course, at the latest.

Recommended workload in hours:
Student activity
Lecture participation
Prepare for lectures, follow up lectures
Read mandatory
/recommended course readings independently of class
Write term paper, individual and group work together
Assignments and indiv feedback
Other group work during and in addition to class , e.g. related to presentations
Total recommended use of time

Students must write a short diary of one's learning process, covering each class meeting typically with 3-5 lines. This diary must be available as a basis for a short conversation with the instructor in the periphery of a class meeting.

The final grade in the course is based on the following activities and weighting:

1) A term paper in groups of 2 or 3 students, accounts for 60 % of the grade in the course.
2) Group presentation in class, accounts for 25 % of the grade in the course.
3) Individual participation/assignment (presentation of a book chapter or similar text, or writing a term paper review), accounts for 15 % of the grade in the course. (Students are expected to show up for at least 80% of all class sessions).

Examination code(s)
ELE 37101 - Process evaluation, counts 100% towards the final grade in ELE 3710, 7,5 credits.

Examination support materials
All support materials are allowed.

Re-sit examination
A re-sit is held in connection with the next scheduled exam in the course.
Students who are taking new exam must take the course all over including all the activities on which the evaluation is based.

Additional information
The term paper topic is normally chosen from a lecturer's list which will be made available in the second session the latest. As an alternative, the group members choose a topic themselves and ask for approval by the lecturer. The max term paper length is 15x350 words; contents, abstract and necessary appendices are permitted in addition.
The group presentation is peer-graded, but the lecturer has a veto right
The additional text selection is updated once a year and preferably available online instead of in paper.
A handout with recommended additional readings in English, Norwegian and other languages will be made available as a handout and/or on it's learning