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Business Ethics Blog by Prof. Chris MacDonald


August 24th, 2016
The 2016 Rio Olympics were a great sporting event, and an ethical mess


So, the 2016 Olympics are over. And while the Olympics always seem to serve up their share of controversy, this year’s event in Rio seems to have had more than the usual quantum of troubles. In fact, the Rio Olympics featured enough scandals and ethical dilemmas to keep a university Moral Issues course going for […]

July 8th, 2016
Why corporate diversity programs fail, and what to do about it


Diversity and equality of opportunity are good things. And discrimination, on the other hand, is both morally repugnant and economically foolhardy. And yet it persists. So how on earth could programs designed to encourage diversity and opportunity and to discourage discrimination be a bad thing? That’s exactly the question asked and answered by Harvard prof […]

June 3rd, 2016
Zika Virus: Should the Rio Olympics Sponsors Back Out?


What should Olympic sponsors and ‘partners’ like Coke and General Electric and Visa do in light of expert recommendations that the Summer Olympics in Rio be postponed or moved? Nearly 200 prominent scientists, physicians, and ethicists from around the globe have signed a letter arguing that the 2016 Summer Olympics scheduled to be held in Rio […]

May 18th, 2016
What Baseball’s Rules — Written and Unwritten — Tell us About Business Ethics


The fist that landed on Jose Bautista’s jaw echoed around the baseball world almost as loudly as his famous “bat flip” last October. And whereas Bautista’s bat flip violated the unwritten rule against grandstanding, Texas Rangers second baseman Rougned Odor’s punch violated the written rules, but also followed from a different, unwritten rule that permits […]

May 18th, 2016
What Baseball’s Rules — Written and Unwritten — Tell us About Business Ethics


The fist that landed on Jose Bautista’s jaw echoed around the baseball world almost as loudly as his famous “bat flip” last October. And whereas Bautista’s bat flip violated the unwritten rule against grandstanding, Texas Rangers second baseman Rougned Odor’s punch violated the written rules, but also followed from a different, unwritten rule that permits […]

May 2nd, 2016
Mainstream medicine’s not perfect, but it beats the alternative


Defenders of David and Collet Stephan are right about the Canadian healthcare system, and about the “mainstream” approach to healthcare. Sometimes the system kills. Sometimes errors are made. Some pharmaceuticals, in some circumstances, do more harm than good. Preventable “adverse events” may kill as many as 23,000 adults Canadians each year. Sometimes a trip to […]

April 19th, 2016
What should you do if you lose faith in what you’re selling?


What happens — what should happen — when you lose faith in your product, when you come to see that the product you’ve been selling all this time isn’t really what it’s been cracked up to be? Is it wrong to keep selling it? How bad does the product have to be for it to […]

March 29th, 2016
Could the FBI really force Apple engineers to break encryption?


Would FBI Compelling Apple Mean Using Forced Labour? News surfaced recently that, in the event that the FBI is successful in getting a court to compel Apple to unlock an iPhone, the company’s engineers might simply not do the work. In addition to raising interesting practical questions (still hypothetical at this point) for the FBI, this […]

March 29th, 2016
Could the FBI really force Apple engineers to break encryption?


Would FBI Compelling Apple Mean Using Forced Labour? News surfaced recently that, in the event that the FBI is successful in getting a court to compel Apple to unlock an iPhone, the company’s engineers might simply not do the work. In addition to raising interesting practical questions (still hypothetical at this point) for the FBI, this […]

March 12th, 2016
What Are Corporate Boards Ethically Obligated to Know?


Just what are corporate boards obligated to know? More precisely, what lengths are they obligated to go to in order to get to know the things they ought to know? The topic came to mind when I read today’s story about how the salary of the CEO of Canada’s biggest banks, RBC, had gone up […]

February 20th, 2016
Fast Food Chains, Cage-Free Eggs, and Animal Rights


It’s not all that surprising that restaurants that focus on fast, cheap food look to suppliers who focus on fast, cheap production methods. Fast food chains and factory farms, in other words, seem like a match made in heaven. But from the point of view of animals, it’s a match made in hell. The fast […]

February 8th, 2016
Is it Ethical to Watch the Super Bowl?


Is it unethical to watch the Super Bowl? As evidence mounts that professional football is essentially a highly-organized mechanism for inducing brain injury in large numbers of young men with few other options, the question arises whether watching the causing of all that brain injury is itself unethical. If the game itself is ethically problematic, […]

December 31st, 2015
Top 10 Business Ethics Stories of 2015


In addition to blogging here, I also co-edit a news & commentary website called BusinessEthicsHighlights.com. Below is a list my co-editor, Alexei Marcoux, and I have put together of the Top 10 business ethics stories of 2015. Enjoy! (If you prefer the PDF version, click here: BEH Year in Review, 2015.) Year in Review: The Top 10 […]

December 16th, 2015
Loblaws selling homeopathy is junk science and bad corporate ethics


Imagine you walked into your local bank, and saw a sign that read: “Lottery tickets have the potential to ensure a comfortable retirement. Ask us to help you select the lottery that’s right for you!” You would, I am sure, be shocked. Anyone with the slightest bit of financial common sense knows that lotteries are […]

November 24th, 2015
How design can help companies make better ethical choices


What does it take to design an ethical plan of action? What would you do if you were head of compliance at <a href=”http://businessethicshighlights.com/2015/10/10/vw-blames-engineers/”>Volkswagen</a&gt;, or <a href=”http://www.theglobeandmail.com/report-on-business/snc-lavalin-calls-on-feds-to-adopt-corruption-settlement-deals/article27188907/”>SNC Lavalin</a>? The question arose recently, as I spent a weekend as a speaker and judge at the terrific <a href=”http://ethicsinaction.ca/”>Ethics in Action case competition</a>, held at Dalhousie University’s […]

November 17th, 2015
Do we really want Amazon policing authors?


Should a bookseller help a convicted murderer and rapist earn a living? In brief: yes. It’s not an appealing conclusion, so sold your nose, and listen to the reasons. Amazon apparently disagrees with me, or is at least willing to bow to public pressure on the matter. The company has apparently <a href=”http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/toronto/paul-bernardo-book-disappears-1.3319838″>removing an ebook</a> […]

November 4th, 2015
Trust is the most valuable asset any company has


Valeant Pharmaceuticals has suffered a crisis of trust over the last few weeks. More specifically, the trust that investors had in the company was substantially diminished in the wake of revelations that Valeant had an unclear but apparently too-cozy relationship with specialty pharmacy called Philidor. The loss in trust in this case was quite concrete, […]

November 4th, 2015
Trust is the most valuable asset any company has


Valeant Pharmaceuticals has suffered a crisis of trust over the last few weeks. More specifically, the trust that investors had in the company was substantially diminished in the wake of revelations that Valeant had an unclear but apparently too-cozy relationship with specialty pharmacy called Philidor. The loss in trust in this case was quite concrete, […]

October 28th, 2015
How bad management leads to bad ethics


What’s the connection between ethics and competence in business? What part was played in Volkswagen’s wrongdoing by the fact that the companies engineers were apparently technically incapable of making good on the promises their marketing department was apparently intent on making? I’ve written before about my hypothesis that cheating is often a way of covering […]

September 27th, 2015
If You Think You Can’t be Ethically Compromised at Work, You’re Wrong


It’s a bad week for corporate bosses. Volkswagen CEO, Martin Winterkorn, resigned this week in light of revelations that the car maker had, on his watch, falsified emissions tests on what may turn out to be millions of diesel VW’s. Even more dramatically, former Peanut Corporation of America owner, Stewart Parnell, was sentenced to 28 […]














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