Are Ethical Business Practices Only Fashionable in Europe?

by Aman Singh Das | April 15, 2010

  • My Vault

Ever read something that makes you start laughing out of sheer amazement at the apparent disconnect from reality? Take a look at this from today's Wall Street Journal: "...ethical business practice is not just about refraining from cheating and corruption, but recognizing that a company has responsibilities beyond its shareholders' wallets—to employees, community, customers and the environment." I laugh because it links the very recent financial crisis to a simple lack of ethical business practices. It almost doesn't need saying anything further.

I have been discussing sustainability and business ethics as recent additions to business school curricula for a while now. With more and more B-schools embracing professing the ethical in business through their modules, the term "Sustainable business practices" is recurring more often in conversations with prospective as well as current MBA candidates. Although not all the students believe it is necessary for them to have to .

The article does early on, however, accept the obviousness of teaching ethical business. It quotes Caroline Wang, who teaches a new course on leadership and ethics at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology Business School (recently made mandatory for MBA as well as executive MBA students) saying, "Schools may have erred in the past by assuming students were sufficiently aware of the importance of responsible behavior and failing to give it enough emphasis in the classroom," adding that by focusing on profit without talking enough about a company's wider responsibilities, "we gave people the impression that only profit counts. We must bring out the other elements."

Sustainable MBA Jobs

However, there is also the recruitment aspect. Employers remain oblivious of the qualifications and the need for corporate social responsibility and, therefore, don't proactively seek candidates with this specialized set of skills. I discussed this disconnect not too long ago, also triggered by a WSJ article signaling sustainability as a growing theme in colleges. (Will an MBA in Sustainable Business Practices Get You Hired?) And the conclusion was unsatisfactorily against students willing to use their electives for ethical business practices come recruitment time.

Most importantly though, while the article emphasizes that it isn't a one-sided push from schools, and that businesses have let schools know their need for more ethical candidates, it is, without saying so deliberately, only quoting European companies and schools. An important deliberation because CSR has been growing as a strategic aspect of corporate policy for a long time in Europe, while remaining almost nonexistent in the US despite all the recent buzz in the media.

For the complete article, visit WSJ.com.

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Filed Under: CSR

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