Business Ethics Education

Formal education in business ethics takes place in three key venues. First, many universities offer courses in business ethics through their philosophy departments, where they have been offered for decades, a result of the fact that ethics more generally has been a philosophical discipline for over 2,000 years.

Second, business ethics courses appear regularly in universities’ business schools. The growth and pervasiveness of business education on university campuses makes this perhaps the principal venue for receiving for-credit instruction in business ethics. Approaches to teaching business ethics in business schools vary considerably. Some instructors may focus on teaching and applying ethical theories. Others may focus on examining case studies, opting to use real (or realistic) cases to highlight relevant ethical tensions and concepts. Still others may take an issues-based approach, featuring lessons on topics such as ‘ethics in finance,’ ‘ethics in human resources,’ ‘ethics in advertising,’ and so on. A central debate within business schools is whether business ethics should be a stand-alone, required course for business students, or instead a topic woven into many or all courses in the business curriculum (the ‘ethics across the curriculum’ approach).

Third, many companies today pursue substantial in-house ethics education and training programs. These may be led by corporate compliance officers or outsourced to university business ethics faculty on a contractual basis.

See also in CEBE:

Further Reading:


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