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Rothlin, Stephan
  2. Animal Rights and the Implications for Business
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  5. Teaching business ethics

In this stereotypical example, the worker is farthest from getting a just wage 4. On the surface, one may easily point a finger at the transnational corporation as well as its local partners, and attribute the cause of severe income inequality to them. That is not a mistake, but the accounting of the causes would not have been adequate. In the last few decades more and more evidence 5 point to a manifold of causal factors for the severe income inequality that we described.


There are global and domestic as well as transnational economic relations that constitute an order that has been designed to maximally benefit shareholders and policy makers to the detriment of those at the bottom of the income bracket. Put simply, there is a complex order constituted by global, domestic, and local individuals and institutions in a myriad of economic and political relations that accounts for the severe income inequality. This complex order that accounts for the severe income inequality takes place because of relations of power and the manner that it is deployed in the various economic and political relations.

Let us consider two levels. Globally, rich nations and transnational corporations that enter trade negotiations and cross-border investments will naturally bargain for an arrangement that benefits them, with little or no regard for other stakeholders; while poor nations have little or no bargaining power against the economic and political clout that the rich nations bring to bear on the negotiations.

Thus it happens often that "free trade" means "special treatment" for the products of a developed nation that are sold in a developing country 6. Locally, the political and economic elite of a country will interact with their domestic inferiors in a manner that maintains their economic and political privileges; while poor citizens have little or no influence on the policies and the asymmetrical implementation of these policies to protect themselves from exploitation e. The result: a complex global and domestic order that deprives workers like the ones depicted above from getting just wages.

And so the admonition arises, "It's not just the corporation, silly! That depiction of the global political and economic order that deprives the poor is hardly considered a controversial claim nowadays.

Animal Rights and the Implications for Business

What could be contentious, however, is the claim concerning accountability in this particular depiction of the global order. For one to be accountable presupposes that one is the cause. In cases of individual moral dilemmas, the answer to the question—who can be held accountable for what?

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Let us clarify the nature of accountability. In , a moral philosopher described a thought experiment that captured the imagination of a generation of scholars on the topic of poverty and humanitarian aid 9. Here is the thought experiment: "if I am walking past a shallow pond and see a child drowning in it, I ought to wade in and pull the child out. This will mean getting my clothes muddy, but this is insignificant, while the death of the child would presumably be a very bad thing.

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He argued quite soundly for elevating humanitarian aid as a moral obligation. This is a level above the claim that it is indeed "good" to contribute to famine relief but not necessarily "bad" to refrain from doing so. However, in the face of the global order that we described above, this development is contentious because it fails to depict accurately the relationship of the child with the "helper.

CSR, in this mindset, is nothing more than a dole-out.


In our depiction of the complex global order, however, the order itself is the cause of the destitution of the mine worker. For the myriad of power relations has designed the complex global order that deprives the poor and powerless. Despite its ambiguity, there is an answer to the question, who can be held accountable for what?

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In contrast to the drowning child example, there is a radical shift from the language of humanitarian aid that is hardly binding to the language of remedy and compensation that are obligatory This presents a strong case for the "obligatoriness," or what moral philosophers call the "binding force," of an authentic corporate social responsibility. Admittedly, this assessment of the global order and the rhetoric on compensation-not-aid are not new.

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In this context, enhancing awareness for ethical dilemmas, proposing frameworks and models to help managers handle difficult choices and demanding decisions - while not being moralistic and imposing values - , and presenting alternative approaches through recent and relevant cases are the main objectives of this book. It examines teaching methods, learning tools and pedagogical methods effective in the teaching of ethics within the particular context of the rich diversity of Asian cultures, and discusses ethics courses curricula, aiming at developing the capacity to deal with a number of issues such as corruption, intellectual property protection, whistle blowing and consumer rights.

The relevance and limits of Asian philosophical and spiritual traditions and how their underlying values can be a meaningful aspect in the teaching of ethics to managers and business leaders are explored, as are the benefits and limits of corporate codes of conduct and ways to enhance their effectiveness. Skip to main content Skip to table of contents.

Teaching business ethics

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Rothlin, Stephan

Front Matter Pages i-xii. Pages Front Matter Pages The Competitive Edge of Moral Leadership.