Business Ethics 101

Posted by Dave Allen on June 19, 2011
Business Ethics 101

Business ethics has long been a part of undergraduate and MBA curricula, but business schools are now paying heightened attention to this area. The Enron scandal still casts a long shadow, and the financial crisis of 2008, spun out of poor judgment and overly risky investments, has created new examples of what can happen when businesses are left to their own devices. On the horizon is a newfound emphasis on ethical business and regulatory accounting practices.

The result has been an upswing in enrollment in business ethics programs, particularly at the graduate level. The Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business reports that business schools in general are beginning to reflect a renewed emphasis on ethics in their MBA course offerings. Demonstrating a commitment to institutional ethics, participation in business ethics programs can be a boon for students looking to land CSR positions.

Business ethics courses cover a range of topics-for example, how to formulate and implement internal policies to address employee theft, sexual harassment, and data privacy and protection. Those studying for a specialized MBA or a graduate certificate can expect the kind of intense case study preparation that characterizes most standard MBA programs, with an emphasis on sticky situations that involve a great amount of interpersonal conflict. Ethics officials have to be equipped to oversee multimilliondollar deals as well as face-to-face interactions.

Several schools are well ahead of the business ethics curve:

  • Duquesne University offers a master's degree in leadership and business ethics, available at its campus in Pittsburgh and online. The program seeks to ground students in the philosophies of ethical theory as well as their practical applications in the workplace.
  • Colorado State University launched a 10-week online certification course in 2001. A professor with the university's Center for Business Ethics and Social Policy started the site, a popular online resource.
  • The Center for Business Ethics at Bentley College is one of the oldest in the field, but has managed to keep up with the times. The curriculum includes an intensive four-week session at the college's Waltham, Massachusetts, campus that culminates with a graduate certificate in business ethics.
  • Loyola University Chicago's Graduate School of Business offers a graduate certificate in ethics to MBA students and working professionals. Courses in the program include integrative leadership, environmental ethics, and ethics of finance.

Also, the Society of Corporate Compliance and Ethics, a nonprofit association, offers certification to its members to promote best practices across industries. Another professional development organization, the Ethics & Compliance Officer Association, is working on a certification program.

About the Author