Are business ethics genuine or merely a public relations exercise used to increase profits? Business leaders today face challenges on a scale unimaginable a few years ago’ (Stephen Howard, Chief Executive of Business in the Community). Identify the two mo

Contemporary Issues for Business and Society



Question #1: Are business ethics genuine or merely a public relations exercise used to increase profits?


This question requires students to assess the evidence for and against the view that the actions of corporations and other private sector companies are responsible and moral. A basic issue to discuss in answering this question is whether businesses can both make profits and do what is morally right and good.


Contrasting answers to this question were offered by Business in the Community (BITC)  -a representative from which was a guest lecture in trimester A – and Joel Bakan, whose film The Corporationstudents analysed in the Reading Week exercise in trimester A. Bakan argues that corporations are anti-social, amoral and psychopathic institutions which create economic, social and environmental damage in the pursuit of profit. He arguesthatthe purpose of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) is to enable corporations to improve their public images and relations. In contrast, BITC argues that private companies can work to secure a fairer society and more sustainable future.


A good answer to this question would outline, compare and evaluate these respective viewpoints. Students should also illustrate their answer by providing examples of both moral and immoral actions taken by businesses and corporations.


Additional marks will be awarded to answers which make appropriate reference to some of the relevant theories, philosophies and concepts used to discuss business ethics and responsible management, e.g. Carrol’s ‘pyramid’ of CSR, the UN Global Compact, etc. Answers should also demonstrate understanding of the difference between corporations and other forms of private business, and also the distinction between CSR and social enterprise / social business.


Question #2: ‘Business leaders today face challenges on a scale unimaginable a few years ago’ (Stephen Howard, Chief Executive of Business in the Community). Identify the two most important challenges facing business today, explain why you regard them as important and outline their implications for managers.


This question allows students to outline and discuss some of the difficulties which contemporary managers face. This question requires students to perform three tasks:


(i) identify two challenges, i.e. describe these

(ii) explain why these are important, i.e. consider their scale or severity

(iii) discuss their implications for managers


Students can choose any issue which they regard as important but they must offer arguments and provide evidence to justify their selection.Some of the issues which covered in the module might be suitable include the following:


·                complex international supply chains;

·                intensifiedglobal competition;

·                cultural diversity and the different expectations of stakeholderswithin multi- and transnational corporations and what this implies for managers operating in global markets;

·                the relationships of interdependency and potential vulnerability to ‘remote’ events associated with globalisation;

·                the heightened level of scrutiny associated withglobal information and communications technologies and social networking


Students are reminded that they ought only to discuss two issues.


Answers must provide reasons why the two selected challenges areimportant for management practice, i.e. explain the seriousness or scale of their consequences.


Good answers will illustrate these challenges and their implicationsby reference to specific examples,particular incidents or episodes, e.g. how managers in a particular business faced difficulties created by media coverage and campaigning organisations highlighting issues in their global supply chain.


General Examination Requirements


Usually in an examination (unlike other assignments), students are not expected to be able to cite fully every quotation, evidence source, attributable idea or insight to which they refer, as they do not have the reference material with them in the examination room. However, as students have had time to revise and prepare their responses to these questions, it is reasonable for examiners to expect a more general acknowledgement of any sources used in responses to this question, i.e. to note that an argument or some information used comes from a particular author or source; e.g. “… Etzioni argued that…”, or “data from the International Labour Organisation shows that …” etc.


The Module Guide provides information on the general criteria used to assess assignments. The basic elements required for a good answer should already be known to students:


·                there should be no significant factual errors;

·                only relevant information is included in responses;

·                the discussion should be logically organised: it should be clear that once point ‘A’ is established by argument and evidence point ‘B’ follows from this and then point ‘C’ etc. building up an integrated case which leads to a sound conclusion;

·                the response will demonstrate understanding of the main concepts raised by the question. This understanding will be demonstrated by the student’s ability to apply the concepts appropriately to explain or illuminate an issue;

·                analyses and arguments should be based on evidence: statements should be backed up with references to data and/or sources (even if these cannot be fully referenced, as noted above);

·                < span>importantly in a written examination – hand writing should be legible


In addition, students at postgraduate level will be expected to demonstrate knowledge and apply information and evidence beyond that provided in lectures, e.g. to have made use of the additional sources provided in the ‘Readings and Link’s section of GCU Learn, read some of the sources included in the Module Guide, and/or undertaken independent study and present evidence they possess or have gathered themselves.



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