Business Ethics

Curriculum Guideline

Effective Date:
Course Code
PHIL 1122
Business Ethics
Humanities & Social Sciences
Start Date
End Term
Not Specified
Semester Length
Max Class Size
Contact Hours
Lecture: 2 hrs. per week / semester Seminar: 2 hrs. per week / semester
Method Of Instruction
Methods Of Instruction

The course will employ a variety of instructional methods to accomplish its objectives, including some of the following:

A combination of lecture and discussion (possibly including student presentations).  Some class sessions may involve formal lectures for the entire time (allowing time for questions), in which case a later class session will allow discussion of the lecture and reading material.  Other class sessions may involve a combination of informal lecture and structured discussion.

After the course has been offered for at least two semesters, an alternative method of instruction may be employed involving guest lecturers and equal number of audit students (35) to the number of students taking the course for credit (35).  For eight or ten weeks of the semester, a guest lecture with special expertise may be brought in for one of the two class sessions of the week (e.g., for a 90 or 100 minute lunch-time period).  These sessions will also be open to audit students or to the general public, up to the specified limit of 35 additional students.  The remainder of the class sessions in the semester will be reserved for students taking the course for credit.

Course Description
What place does ethics have in business? What responsibilities, if any, do managers and professionals have to society? Are corporations moral agents with moral responsibilities distinct from the responsibilities their managers may have as individuals? What rights should workers have to health and safety in the workplace? What rights to equality and non-discrimination do applicants, workers, and managers have? How should any existing inequalities be addressed? Just how loyal should worker and manager have to be? Is there really anything wrong with deception and dishonesty in order to further important ends? What place does ethics have in advertising? In international business interactions? When questions of the environment arise? This course will consider many of these questions, and other related issues. Students will be briefly introduced to the fundamentals of ethical theory and decision making, and to their applications.
Course Content
  1. The nature of ethics - including the relation between ethics & morality, and morality & law.
    • A simple introduction to the basic types of ethical theories: such as, consequentialism (e.g., utilitarianism), deontological theories (e.g., Kantian or moral intuitionism); ethical egoism, social contractarian theories (e.g., Rawls or Nozick), and rights theories.
    • The application of such ethical theory to the resolution of moral issues in business.
  2. The place and nature of ethics in the business world - including the social responsibility of business (e.g., are there obligations to the community beyond those to the shareholders?), the moral status of corporations (e.g., are they moral persons?), and the ethical responsibility of professionals (e.g., for self-regulation, or to assist and encourage citizen advocacy).
  3. Ethical concerns about the relationships between employee and employer --including concerns about health and safety in the workplace (e.g., what rights do employees and employers have?); about employee loyalty an autonomy (e.g., to what extent is an employee required to be a loyal agent? What protections should be offered in cases of “whistleblowing”); and about discrimination in the work place and in hiring practices (encompassing preferential treatment and affirmative action).
  4. Ethical concerns about the relationship between business and special aspects of the outside world emphasizing the environment (e.g. are there moral responsibilities to the environment beyond the law?); international businesses (e.g., the morality of sanctions); and the consumer (e.g., exaggeration in advertising).
  5. Special moral topics central to ethical issues in business (e.g. deception) or an examination of morally questionable business practices (e.g., bribery).  (These may be covered separately or under items #2, 3 & 4 above.)

All five of these general areas will be covered, but some in #2 - 5 may be emphasized more heavily than the others.

Learning Outcomes

Successful students will be able to:

  1. Explain the ethical theories and concepts covered in the course.
  2. Demonstrate an understanding of the moral controversies covered in the course.
  3. Reflect in a critical way about the moral issues which arise in business.
  4. Develop more effective methods for making up their minds about moral issues in business.
  5. Apply ethical theory to the resolution of moral issues in business.
  6. Explain the moral reasoning involved in viewpoints directly opposed to one another.
  7. Develop their own reasoning about moral controversies.
Means of Assessment

Evaluation will be based on course objectives and will be carried out in accordance with Douglas College policy.


The instructor will provide a written course outline with specific criteria during the first week of classes.


Any possible combination of the following which equals 100%:

(No one evaluation component within each category may exceed 40%)


     Percent Range           Example
Tests, quizzes, short written assignments   20% - 50% Three 10% tests     30%
Written class presentations, essays, essay exams   30% - 60% Two 30% essays     60%
Instructor's general evaluation
(may include attendance, class participation,
group work, homework, etc.)
    0% - 20% Attendance/
Participation           10%
total                              100%
Textbook Materials

Textbooks and Materials to be Purchased by Students

Texts will be updated periodically.   Typical examples are:


Poff, Deborah C. (2005) Business Ethics in Canada, (4th ed.). Pearson Education Canada.


Shaw, W. & Barry, V.  (2004). Moral Issues in Business, (9th ed.). Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.


Tittle, Peg (Ed.).  (2002). Ethical Issues in Business: Inquiries, Cases and Readings.  Peterborough, ON:         Broadview Press.