SOAS University of London

School of Finance and Management

Business Ethics and Corporate Social Responsibility

Module Code:
Year of study:
Year 2
Taught in:
Full Year

This module introduces students to contemporary issues in the relationship between business and ethics. In the modern world, there is a range of views on how business should relate to society and how managers’ decisions can relate to ethical concerns. And the issues have become more complex as businesses have intensified their international reach, engaging with societies that may have distinct structures, norms, and cultures.  Through studying principles of academic thinking about these issues, and working on the problems experienced in actual case studies, students learn how to think through the complex problems of business ethics and consider how ethical principles could influence management decisions. The types of real world problems studied include business decisions’ effect on climate change, on depletion of natural resources, on employee welfare, and on the welfare of local and wider communities. They involve balancing the interests of shareholders against those of other stakeholders, and balancing short term against long term interests. The ideas discussed include critical evaluation of corporate social responsibility strategies and concepts of the firm as an organisation of stakeholders.  The importance of transparency, the role of whistleblowers, and the nature of bribery are also evaluated. The course is organised around international case studies.

Objectives and learning outcomes of the module

An understanding of:
• Principles of ethics
• Ethics and the role of the firm.
• Ethics and firms’ management structure and strategy.
• The relation between ethical principles and individuals’ decisions in management
• Critical evaluation of concepts of business ethics
• Applying ethics in problem solving through case studies

Scope and syllabus

The module covers problems of business ethics on the basis of principles and in their application to case studies using the following syllabus as a guide:

1. Basic principles of ethics: three traditions of thinking about ethics.
2. Applications of the three principles to contemporary moral problems
3. Ethics and the nature of the firm: profit maximisation vs stakeholder theories of the firm
4. Application of stakeholder theories to case studies
5. Corporate strategy and climate change: principles
6. Corporate strategy and climate change: case studies
7. Corporate strategy and natural resource depletion: principles
8. Corporate strategy and natural resource depletion: case studies
9. Corporate strategy and pollution: principles
10. Corporate strategy and pollution: case studies
11. Ethical dimensions of hiring, firing and human resources: principles
12. Ethical dimensions of hiring firing and human resources: case studies
13. Corporate social responsibility: principles
14. Corporate social responsibility: case studies
15. Critical evaluation of transparency and accountability: principles
16. Critical evaluation of transparency and accountability: case studies
17. Ethics, law and regulation: principles
18. Ethics law and regulation: case studies

Method of assessment

This module is assessed by 30% written coursework and 70% by one 3-hour examination

Suggested reading



Important notice regarding changes to programmes and modules