Ethical Issues in Business

ethical-issues-in-business

Ethical Issues in Business: Inquiries, Cases, and Readings (Broadview, 2000) – Peg Tittle

The core of this text comprises chapters on all the key issues of business in Canada today.  Each chapter includes a hypothetical case study and an introduction by the editor highlighting key ethical points; two academic essays; and a real-life case study. Questions for discussion accompany the essays and case studies. The editor has also included a general introduction to ethical theory; a section on institutionalizing ethics (discussing ethics officers/programs/codes, etc.); and appendices providing excerpts from important classic contributions to ethical theory and relevant Canadian law. The result is a comprehensive and useable course text particularly helpful for Canadian students.

Society for Business Ethics Newsletter

Ethical Issues in Business is a comprehensive package of articles, cases, and background discussion that provides an outstanding introduction to the subject for Canadian students.  The text breathes fresh air into the study of business ethics; Tittle’s breezy, use-friendly style puts the lie to the impression that a business ethics text has to be boring.

Paul Viminitz, University of Lethbridge

 

Any non-Canadians willing to overlook the exclusively Canadian origin of the case studies will find that the issues raised apply universally.  More to the point, they will find themselves in possession of a superb introduction to ethics in business.

Steve Deery, The Philosophers’ Magazine

 

Peg Tittle wants to make business students think about ethics.  So she has published an extraordinarily useful book that teaches people to question and analyze key concepts.

Take profit, for example.  Nothing in the pantheon of business topics is more central than profit.

“Most business students seem to assume that profit is good,” says Tittle, who teaches at Nipissing University’s Centre for Continuing Business Education.

Many assume the pursuit of profit is the reason for being in business.  Some even assume it’s a right.  But Tittle challenges Canada’s future business leaders to justify profit on ethical grounds.

Suppose you’re an upper-level manager of a company and you have a midlife crisis.  You consider suggesting a profit ceiling to the board of directors.

Maybe by relaxing the bottom line, you can pay a fairer price to your suppliers or buy costlier but more environmentally responsible materials; maybe you can lower prices; maybe you can increase wages and benefits; maybe you can afford fringe programs now on the back burner.

Then, you begin to consider the possible downside of a profit ceiling.

Will investors buy your shares and brokers recommend the stock if your company has voluntarily limited its profit?  Why settle for a 6 per cent rate of return when you can a get 7 or 8 per cent elsewhere?

As a senior executive of the company, you will be giving up the bonus you receive when profits are higher, money that helps fund extras that improve your family’s quality of life.

So, you reconsider.  Maybe instead of limiting profits, you can use the profit the company makes to enhance its reputation and stability, and thus increase the level of job security for all employees.

The company can give part of after-tax profit to charities, worthy environmental projects or community recreation programs, or start a profit-sharing program with workers.

Does profit-sharing make high profits ore morally acceptable?  Or is it a way of co-opting workers into accepting the typical corporate mentality of profit before all else?

Why don’t all private companies have a profit-sharing plan for their employees?  Can you think of reasons why employees might not be interested in such a plan?

These are among the questions Tittle raises when talking about profit.  She also throws in a couple of academic essays from the Journal of Business Ethics and a case study of a Quebec pulp and paper mill that went from losses to profits after an employee buyout in 1972.

Profit is one of a dozen issues she holds under the microscope in her book, Ethical Issues in Business: Inquiries, Cases, and Readings (Broadview Press, $36.95).

She also analyzes whistleblowing, advertising, product safety, employee rights, discrimination, management and union matters, business and the environment, the medical business, and ethical investing.

Released in the spring of 2000, the book is crammed with Canadian content and current case studies.  The only thing missing is a look at the controversy surrounding the Sudanese operations of Talisman Energy Inc. of Calgary.

Still, Tittle manages to include the Westray mine disaster in Nova Scotia; the unionization of a McDonald’s restaurant in Squamish, B.C.; the fuel-cell technology developed by Ballard Power Systems Inc.; and the drug-testing battle between Dr. Nancy Olivieri and the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto.

This text breathes fresh air into the study of business ethics.  The book begins by introducing students to ethical theory – from Aristotle’s list of virtues to Ayn Rand’s definition of altruism – and saying that an ethics course is like a math course: “How you get the answer is, in many respects, more important than the answer itself.”

Ellen Roseman, The Toronto Star

To purchase this book from the publisher, click here.

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