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October 19th, 2014
The future of business ethics research



This weekend offered an interesting opportunityto discuss, dissect and reflect on the state of the art of business ethics research and some of its future trajectories. At the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania a small group of business ethics scholars gathered from all around the globe to celebrate and honor the work of one of the faculty members, Professor Thomas Donaldson. Donaldson, a philosopher by training, can be considered one of the pioneers of the business ethics field and one of its most longstanding and certainly most influential voices over the last four decades.

Some of the speeches at the event focused on appraising and celebrating Donaldson’s impressive body of work, including many humorous interjections on Donaldson as a person by some of his contemporaries such as Norman Bowie, George Brenkert, Ed Freeman, or Pat Werhane. Most of the day though was dedicated to work by scholars who build on, extend, refine, and continue some of Donaldson’s work, including also entering a critical dialogue with his ideas.

Donaldson’s work is not easy to summarize as it covers a number of areas, incl. ‘hard core’ philosophical topics. Without downplaying any of those, one could argue that his work (mostly manifest in books and seminal articles) on corporations and morality, ethics and international business, and Integrative Social Contract Theory (ISCT, together with Thomas Dunfee) count among the most influential ones for the business ethics field. Much of the day was dedicated to develop those ideas further, and in particular ISCT seems to still have a long life ahead.


Thomas Donaldson
Taking a step back after reflecting on Donaldson’s work for 1½ days, it strikes that next to his solid contributions it is both his approach and his choice of topics decades ago which have maybe the strongest potential to inform work in business ethics for decades to come. Donaldson deserves credit for breaking out of the extant consensus in both, the narrower business ethics field as well as the general gist in management studies with an innovative take on at least three core research topics.


What is the unit of analysis in business ethics? 

For most of its short history, certainly until the mid 1990ties scholarly work in business ethics was mostly looking at the organizational level, or even below that, at the level of individual decision-making. What is to admire about Donaldson as a scholar is that he broke out of that consensus, most remarkably when publishing his book and papers around ISCT. The basic tenet of ISCT is that whatever happens in terms of ethical or unethical behavior in businesses is intricately linked to the outside world of business, to institutions that govern business, to wider socio political processes that incentivize or constrain whatever businesses – let alone individuals within them – are doing.

There are solid grounds to argue that this approach to researching ethical issues in business is still of highest relevance today.  On the opening panel of the conference Professor Margaret Blair gave a somewhat sobering account of recent court decisions in US corporate law. Blair, a longstanding authority and critic of the current shareholder dominated view of the firm, gave a short tour d’horizon of court rulings reflecting shareholder dominance as being stronger as never before (Ebay vs Newmark, Trado, CitizensUnited, Hobby Lobby). When the strongest institutions (in this case the law) governing business advocate a model of the firm which flies in the face of much of the basic tenets of the field of business ethics it appears that the odds are very much stacked against any of the aspirations of the field ever coming to fruition in the real world. 

The inspiration then from Donaldson’s work for business ethics scholars may be to further and refine some of the ‘Donaldsonian Themes’ (so the title of the conference); but it is fair to argue that the vision, courage and intellectual entrepreneurship to come up with new approaches of conceptualizing business in its wider societal context is maybe the biggest example and benchmark Donaldson has left for a next generation of business ethics scholars. Be it the relation of business and politics, be it the role of business in economic inequality, or be it the role of business in new technologies and big data – these are all new ethical challenges which ask for a wider and deeper conceptualizations of the role of business and its embeddedness in wider society.

Business ethics is not an epiphenomenon

For most of its history, and to some degree still today, business ethics has been considered as a subfield of management that deals with side-effects of business, with fringe occurrences, with phenomena, that maybe are of interest to the odd practitioner here and there. Certainly many scholars in the core disciplines of management, such as strategy or finance would echo such a view.

During the conference many colleagues highlighted that Donaldson throughout his career has worked in overcoming this categorization of business ethics work. That includes a lot of his writings but also his service to the academic community of management scholars. He was actively leading the subgroup ‘Social Issues inManagement’ of the Academy of Management but also engaged in a number of ‘field constituting’ ventures. Most notably his time as Associate Editor of Academy ofManagement Review (the top journal  for management theory) in the mid 2000s has led to a spate of work originating from scholars in the business ethics field, which was developed under his editorship into papers that speak to the core of the management discipline.

The purpose of the firm, the effect of business on the ecology, the role of business in development or peace – just to name a few examples of business ethics topics – are no longer side-shows. Many of these questions - certainly post financial crisis – are topics that touch the core of the management discipline. Donaldson has left a great example that business ethics scholars have to raise their voice louder and speak to a wider community. Business ethics has something to bring to the party, and Donaldson in is writing and service, has shown how to do this really well.

Management research is an multi-disciplinary venture

One of the things that stands out when looking at Donaldson’s work over four decades is that research in management as an applied discipline is best when it is phenomenon driven. That partly explains the enormous variety of issues he has taken on. The intellectual rigour, theoretical precision and an impressive skill at interesting and accessible writing is what has set a benchmark for ongoing scholarly work. What strikes most is his success – together with other colleagues – to establish philosophy as a legitimate core discipline in management research.

Many management scholars still consider economics to be the main theoretical foundation of management studies – a view maybe still strongest reflected in some of the management studies communities in Europe. In the 1960s, certainly with the rise and growth of marketing and parts of organizational behavior research, we can now consider psychology as a legitimate member of the canonized disciplines of management inquiry.

But this project of widening the theoretical and disciplinary avenues to management research is not over yet. In his writing Donaldson has certainly elevated philosophy as a strong candidate; in his editorial work at AMR he has contributed to make approaches from political science, sociology and others more familiar to the core community of management researchers. We can argue that continuing to widen the disciplinary focus of research in management is truly a ‘Donaldsonian Theme’ and a task for current and future generations of business ethics scholars.

Just as an afterthought - at the end of the conference there was arguably one topic conspicuously absent during the discussion: namely the phenomenon of power (corporate or political, alike). Looking at contemporary debates on, for instance, income inequality or on the roots and fallout of the financial crisis, this seems a somewhat conspicuous omission.  One explanation though could be that – as Richard DeGeorge, chair of the philosophy department during Donaldson’s PhD studies, pointed out at the conference – Donaldson as a student did not take too much liking in Karl Marx’ writings…


The good news then is that this weekend’s conference was not a celebration of Donaldson’s retirement. He will continue as Wharton faculty to be an active scholar and thus surprise, challenge and inspire us hopefully for many more years to come.

Top photo by frankrizzo805, reproduced under the Creative Commons License.


October 19th, 2014
The future of business ethics research



This weekend offered an interesting opportunityto discuss, dissect and reflect on the state of the art of business ethics research and some of its future trajectories. At the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania a small group of business ethics scholars gathered from all around the globe to celebrate and honor the work of one of the faculty members, Professor Thomas Donaldson. Donaldson, a philosopher by training, can be considered one of the pioneers of the business ethics field and one of its most longstanding and certainly most influential voices over the last four decades.

Some of the speeches at the event focused on appraising and celebrating Donaldson’s impressive body of work, including many humorous interjections on Donaldson as a person by some of his contemporaries such as Norman Bowie, George Brenkert, Ed Freeman, or Pat Werhane. Most of the day though was dedicated to work by scholars who build on, extend, refine, and continue some of Donaldson’s work, including also entering a critical dialogue with his ideas.

Donaldson’s work is not easy to summarize as it covers a number of areas, incl. ‘hard core’ philosophical topics. Without downplaying any of those, one could argue that his work (mostly manifest in books and seminal articles) on corporations and morality, ethics and international business, and Integrative Social Contract Theory (ISCT, together with Thomas Dunfee) count among the most influential ones for the business ethics field. Much of the day was dedicated to develop those ideas further, and in particular ISCT seems to still have a long life ahead.


Thomas Donaldson
Taking a step back after reflecting on Donaldson’s work for 1½ days, it strikes that next to his solid contributions it is both his approach and his choice of topics decades ago which have maybe the strongest potential to inform work in business ethics for decades to come. Donaldson deserves credit for breaking out of the extant consensus in both, the narrower business ethics field as well as the general gist in management studies with an innovative take on at least three core research topics.


What is the unit of analysis in business ethics? 

For most of its short history, certainly until the mid 1990ties scholarly work in business ethics was mostly looking at the organizational level, or even below that, at the level of individual decision-making. What is to admire about Donaldson as a scholar is that he broke out of that consensus, most remarkably when publishing his book and papers around ISCT. The basic tenet of ISCT is that whatever happens in terms of ethical or unethical behavior in businesses is intricately linked to the outside world of business, to institutions that govern business, to wider socio political processes that incentivize or constrain whatever businesses – let alone individuals within them – are doing.

There are solid grounds to argue that this approach to researching ethical issues in business is still of highest relevance today.  On the opening panel of the conference Professor Margaret Blair gave a somewhat sobering account of recent court decisions in US corporate law. Blair, a longstanding authority and critic of the current shareholder dominated view of the firm, gave a short tour d’horizon of court rulings reflecting shareholder dominance as being stronger as never before (Ebay vs Newmark, Trado, CitizensUnited, Hobby Lobby). When the strongest institutions (in this case the law) governing business advocate a model of the firm which flies in the face of much of the basic tenets of the field of business ethics it appears that the odds are very much stacked against any of the aspirations of the field ever coming to fruition in the real world. 

The inspiration then from Donaldson’s work for business ethics scholars may be to further and refine some of the ‘Donaldsonian Themes’ (so the title of the conference); but it is fair to argue that the vision, courage and intellectual entrepreneurship to come up with new approaches of conceptualizing business in its wider societal context is maybe the biggest example and benchmark Donaldson has left for a next generation of business ethics scholars. Be it the relation of business and politics, be it the role of business in economic inequality, or be it the role of business in new technologies and big data – these are all new ethical challenges which ask for a wider and deeper conceptualizations of the role of business and its embeddedness in wider society.

Business ethics is not an epiphenomenon

For most of its history, and to some degree still today, business ethics has been considered as a subfield of management that deals with side-effects of business, with fringe occurrences, with phenomena, that maybe are of interest to the odd practitioner here and there. Certainly many scholars in the core disciplines of management, such as strategy or finance would echo such a view.

During the conference many colleagues highlighted that Donaldson throughout his career has worked in overcoming this categorization of business ethics work. That includes a lot of his writings but also his service to the academic community of management scholars. He was actively leading the subgroup ‘Social Issues inManagement’ of the Academy of Management but also engaged in a number of ‘field constituting’ ventures. Most notably his time as Associate Editor of Academy ofManagement Review (the top journal  for management theory) in the mid 2000s has led to a spate of work originating from scholars in the business ethics field, which was developed under his editorship into papers that speak to the core of the management discipline.

The purpose of the firm, the effect of business on the ecology, the role of business in development or peace – just to name a few examples of business ethics topics – are no longer side-shows. Many of these questions - certainly post financial crisis – are topics that touch the core of the management discipline. Donaldson has left a great example that business ethics scholars have to raise their voice louder and speak to a wider community. Business ethics has something to bring to the party, and Donaldson in is writing and service, has shown how to do this really well.

Management research is an multi-disciplinary venture

One of the things that stands out when looking at Donaldson’s work over four decades is that research in management as an applied discipline is best when it is phenomenon driven. That partly explains the enormous variety of issues he has taken on. The intellectual rigour, theoretical precision and an impressive skill at interesting and accessible writing is what has set a benchmark for ongoing scholarly work. What strikes most is his success – together with other colleagues – to establish philosophy as a legitimate core discipline in management research.

Many management scholars still consider economics to be the main theoretical foundation of management studies – a view maybe still strongest reflected in some of the management studies communities in Europe. In the 1960s, certainly with the rise and growth of marketing and parts of organizational behavior research, we can now consider psychology as a legitimate member of the canonized disciplines of management inquiry.

But this project of widening the theoretical and disciplinary avenues to management research is not over yet. In his writing Donaldson has certainly elevated philosophy as a strong candidate; in his editorial work at AMR he has contributed to make approaches from political science, sociology and others more familiar to the core community of management researchers. We can argue that continuing to widen the disciplinary focus of research in management is truly a ‘Donaldsonian Theme’ and a task for current and future generations of business ethics scholars.

Just as an afterthought - at the end of the conference there was arguably one topic conspicuously absent during the discussion: namely the phenomenon of power (corporate or political, alike). Looking at contemporary debates on, for instance, income inequality or on the roots and fallout of the financial crisis, this seems a somewhat conspicuous omission.  One explanation though could be that – as Richard DeGeorge, chair of the philosophy department during Donaldson’s PhD studies, pointed out at the conference – Donaldson as a student did not take too much liking in Karl Marx’ writings…


The good news then is that this weekend’s conference was not a celebration of Donaldson’s retirement. He will continue as Wharton faculty to be an active scholar and thus surprise, challenge and inspire us hopefully for many more years to come.

Top photo by frankrizzo805, reproduced under the Creative Commons License.


October 16th, 2014
Lobbying in Deutschland – Defizite bei der Regulierung



Es fehlt an Transparenz und an einem klaren Verständnis von Lobbying. In einer aktuellen Studie befasst sich die Organisation Transparency International mit dem Einfluss der Lobbyisten auf politische Entscheidungsprozesse in Deutschland. Wer sind sie, was machen sie und wann fängt Lobbyismus an problematisch zu werden? Die Studie liefert Antworten und stellt auch Forderungen auf.

October 7th, 2014
Sinn, gutes Geld und Work-Life



Was ist dran an der These von der sinnorientierten Generation Y? Eine gemeinsame Studie des Netzwerks Enactus und des SVI-Stiftungslehrstuhls für Marketing der HHL Leipzig Graduate School of Management, an der sich deutschlandweit mehr als 1.000 Studierende beteiligt haben, verschafft einen genaueren Blick aufs Thema: Der „Sinn der Arbeit“ jenseits monetärer Vergütung ist wichtig – aber nicht für alle Angehörigen der Generation Y gleich wichtig.

September 15th, 2014
Reader’s Digest zeichnet C&A erneut als vertrauenswürdigste Marke aus



Am vergangenen Freitag wurde C&A Deutschland in Düsseldorf erneut mit dem Most Trusted Brands Award ausgezeichnet. C&A gilt damit seit elf Jahren in Folge als vertrauenswürdigste Marke in der Produktkategorie Bekleidung.

September 10th, 2014
Tradierte Rollenbilder und väterfeindliche Unternehmenskulturen


Düsseldorf (csr-news) > Viele Männer wünschen sich mehr Familienzeit lautet das Ergebnis einer Studie der Unternehmensberatung A.T. Kearney. Doch wie die Studie "361° - Nur Mut!" zeigt, haben bislang weniger als die Hälfte aller Väter familienfreundliche Leistungen - wie Teilzeit oder Elternzeit -



August 8th, 2014
Ranking der dreckigsten Kohlekraftwerke


Bonn (csr-news) > Neun der insgesamt 30 schmutzigsten Kohlekraftwerke in Europa stammen aus Deutschland, alleine vier unter den fünf größten CO2-Verschmutzern. Zusammen mit dem Climate Action Network Europe (CAN), dem WWF, der Health and Environment Alliance (HEAL) und der Klima-Allianz Deutschland hat das



August 7th, 2014
Shell und Nigerias Regierung ignorieren Umweltschäden



2011 wurden die Auswirkungen einer Umweltkatastrophe im nigerianischen Ogoniland durch eine UNEP-Studie deutlich. Auslöser war die Beendigung der Ölförderung im Jahr 1993 durch den Mineralölkonzern Shell. Dieser hatte seine Anlagen ungesichert zurückgelassen, sodass in der Folgezeit ungehindert Rohöl austreten konnte, mit katastrophalen Auswirkungen. Geändert hat sich seitdem wenig, wie mehrere NGOs untersucht haben. Sie fordern die nigerianische Regierung und Shell zum Handeln auf.

July 3rd, 2014
„Das Heft in die Hand nehmen“: Textilunternehmen gründen MaxTex



Die Textilindustrie steht unter besonderer öffentlicher Beobachtung in Bezug auf ihren Umgang mit der Lieferkette, dem Personal und dem Abwasser. In öffentlichen Ausschreibungen werden zunehmend nachhaltige Textilien gefordert. „Grund genug, das Heft des Handelns in die Hand zu nehmen und mit Gleichgesinnten das voranzutreiben, woran man selbst auch glaubt“, sagte Klaus Jahn, Geschäftsführer des neu gegründeten Vereins MaxTex, am Mittwoch bei dessen erster öffentlicher Vorstellung in Köln. Im Vorfeld der Vereinsgründung hatte es branchenintern Irritationen gegeben.

July 2nd, 2014
Weniger ist mehr: BSH steigert Absatz supereffizienter Hausgeräte um 15 Prozent gegenüber Vorjahr



Die BSH Bosch und Siemens Hausgeräte GmbH hat 2013 den Absatz supereffizienter Hausgeräte in Europa um 15 Prozent gegenüber dem Vorjahr gesteigert und insgesamt 4,6 Millionen Geräte verkauft. Das entspricht einem Anteil von 35 Prozent des Gesamtabsatzes. Damit hat die BSH ihr Ziel bereits zwei Jahre früher erreicht als geplant.

June 26th, 2014
„Best Global Green Brands“



Überraschung bei der Veröffentlichung der diesjährigen „Best Global Green Brands“. Der amerikanische Autobauer Ford verdrängt Toyota von der Spitzenposition und ist nun die „grünste Marke“. In diesem Jahr dominiert, neben der Automobilbranche, auch der Elektronik- und Technologiesektor. Interbrand's Best Global Green Brands Report untersucht und bewertet den Gap, der zwischen tatsächlicher nachhaltiger Unternehmensführung und der Verbraucherwahrnehmung dieser "grünen" Unternehmensaktivitäten, entsteht.

May 28th, 2014
CR-Bericht: Messbare Fortschritte bei der Telekom



Die Deutsche Telekom will weltweit Marktführer für vernetztes Leben und Arbeiten werden und dabei auch eine führende Rolle bei der Übernahme gesellschaftlicher und ökologischer Verantwortung übernehmen. Im vergangenen Geschäftsjahr wurden auf diesem Weg einige wesentliche Schritte erreicht. Zu den Highlights gehört die Verabschiedung einer konzernweit gültigen CR-Richtlinie und auch die Lieferanten werden verpflichtet.

May 26th, 2014
CSRbriefly am Montag


Hückeswagen (csr-news) – Heute mit den Themen: Intel veröffentlicht CSR-Report 2013, Neuer Vorstand des „forums anders reisen“, Schlechtester Boss der Welt enthüllt, Audi aktualisiert Corporate Responsibility Report, Mars Chocolate unterstützt "CocoaAction", Gewerkschaften verpflichten sich zum Kampf gegen den Klimawandel, Finance Watch veröffentlicht Jahresbericht



May 22nd, 2014
Nachhaltigkeit im Luftfahrtbereich


In Deutschland starteten oder landeten 2013 insgesamt 180,7 Millionen Menschen an Flughäfen. Derzeit sind weltweit rund 17.740 Passagierflieger unterwegs und bis 2032 werden es voraussichtlich sogar 36.560 Flugzeuge sein. Neben der Ökonomie werden ökologische Aspekte noch stärker als bisher in den Vordergrund treten.



May 8th, 2014
Globale Perspektiven der Unternehmensethik: EBEN-Annual Conference 2014 in Berlin



Europas Verantwortung ist nicht nur eine politische und militärische Frage. „Wirtschaftsethik in europäischer Perspektive“ ist das Thema der EBEN-Annual Conference 2014. Das Deutsche Netzwerk Wirtschaftsethik als Sektion des European Business Ethics Network (EBEN) ist in diesem Jahr Gastgeber der europäischen Jahreskonferenz, die vom 12. bis 14. Juni 2014 in Berlin stattfinden wird.

May 7th, 2014
Grünes Licht für Industrie-Vertreter bei der EU-Lebensmittelbehörde


Brüssel (afp) - Ungeachtet der Kritik von Nicht-Regierungsorganisationen haben die EU-Staaten am Mittwoch sieben Mitglieder für den Verwaltungsrat der EU-Behörde für Lebensmittelsicherheit (EFSA) ernannt, von denen einige sehr enge Kontakte zur Industrie haben. Dies bestätigte ein EU-Diplomat in Brüssel der Nachrichtenagentur AFP. Es



April 15th, 2014
CSRbriefly am Dienstag


Hückeswagen (csr-news) – Heute mit den Themen: Plattform Industrie 4.0 definiert Forschungsthemen, SAP bietet neue kostenlose Onlinekurse über Nachhaltigkeit, Programm für nachhaltige Wirtschaftsentwicklung, Studie zum Sinn der Arbeit, Ericsson veröffentlicht Nachhaltigkeitsbericht 2013, Die 10 irrsinnigsten Lebensmittelgesetze, Schön Fair: Fairtrade-Kosmetik, KNIPEX gewinnt den EISEN



April 14th, 2014
Neues aus dem Partnernetzwerk: CSR in Dortmund und mehr



Was bewegt sich aktuell im Partnernetzwerk von CSR NEWS? Hier informieren wir Sie über das CSR-Netzwerk Dortmund, Webinare des Deutschen Global Compact Netzwerks, GS1-Seminar Nachhaltigkeitstrends, das 42. Beckhäuser Personalforum und eine neue Plansecur-Broschüre.

April 11th, 2014
CSRbriefly am Freitag


Hückeswagen (csr-news) – Heute mit den Themen: Fiat-Group berichtet nach G4, SÜSS MicroTec veröffentlicht Broschüre zum Thema Nachhaltigkeit, H&M veröffentlicht globalen Nachhaltigkeitsreport, Start der Kampagnen-Website von Nachhaltig Bio!, Nachhaltigkeit an Hochschulen, Juist und La Gomera: Gemeinsam zur Klimaneutralität, Publikation zur Kreislaufwirtschaft in der



April 8th, 2014
C&A warnt vor Lieferengpässen bei Biobaumwolle



Die globale Produktion von Biobaumwolle nimmt weiter ab, trotz der steigenden Nachfrage in den internationalen Märkten, warnt der Modehändler C&A heute in einer Mitteilung. Die Gründe liegen in unter anderem in der Unkenntnis über biologische Anbaumethoden und der fehlenden Zusammenarbeit der Gemeinschaften. Um auf diese Problematik aufmerksam zu machen, hat C&A jetzt die Broschüre "Let's take Bio Cotton to everyone every day" veröffentlicht.












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