Business Ethics and Corporate Responsibility

Business Ethics and Corporate Responsibility

This course is part of the Global Challenges in Business Specialization.

Course Description
<Module 1-4>
Globalization has brought dramatic changes to the marketplace. A proliferation of global brands brings diverse cultures to a onsumer population that is also growing culturally diverse. This course enables students to understand how globalization changes consumers at a psychological level, and provides tools for imbuing brands with cultural meanings—creating iconic brands—that can resonate with global consumers. The focus is on understanding that culture exists in the mind (e.g., values and beliefs) as well as in the environment (e.g., objects, brands, and institutions), and that globalization creates multi-cultural spaces in contemporary societies. Consumers can use the cultural meaning of a brand to build their identities (i.e., assimilate the brand cultural symbolism) or reject the brand’s cultural meaning(s) (i.e., exclusionary reactions). The course will help students identify when assimilation vs. exclusionary reactions are more likely to occur, as well as devise strategies for imbuing brands with cultural meanings that can elevate them to the status of cultural icons.

<Module 5-8>
A basic course in ethics seeks to examine some of the ways in which people evaluate problems associated with human conduct and moral conflict. A course in business ethics and corporate responsibility seeks to bridge the gap between the moral behavior of the individual as a private citizen and the challenges afforded by organized business activity in the marketplace.

Business ethics is the study of how ethics and business are connected and the analysis of ethical decision-making in commerce. There are at least three levels of subject matter for business ethics and corporate responsibility; individuals, organizations, and political/economic systems. Business ethics is both normative and descriptive, that is, it describes and evaluates individual and corporate behavior and practices managers and corporations ought or ought not to engage in.

One of the first questions that arises is whether business and ethics can be connected at all. There is often a presumption that “business” refers to a purely economic activity, which only coincidentally may have important consequences for others. In recent years, the development of business ethics as an academic discipline has involved going beyond making simple connections between ethics and business. Indeed, there is a great deal of work done on developing a set of conceptual frameworks, theories, and ideas in which ethical concepts are embedded in the very basic processes of business, which we shall call value creation and trade. Because business activities and the responsibilities of commerce have to do with human beings and the interrelationships between individuals and companies these relationships can be analyzed in ethical terms. Indeed, without human interrelations, e.g., the involvement of employees and managers, customer relationships, supplier exchanges, board and shareholder demands, and community permission to operate, a business organization could not exist at all. These relationships, often called “stakeholder” relationships are both descriptive of how a company interacts with these groups of people, and normatively, about how they should act. These corporate or small business responsibilities often appear as dilemmas or ethical challenges that occur to an individual in an organization, to the organization itself, or in interchanges between an organization and society. These challenges and responsibilities and the issues they generate will be the subject for this course.

In the first module of this course students learned about “bottom up” approaches to global business. In the second module students learned about corporate and individual mind sets and how those frame decision-making. In this module, we will focus on normative/ethical activities global companies including local and global interactions that may challenge traditional company practices or ways of thinking about business.

InstructorProf Torelli

Professor Carlos Torelli
Department of Business Administration
College of Business

Instructor’s Profile
Coursera Profile (to be updated)

Professor Patricia WerhaneProf Werhane

Department of Business Administration
College of Business

Instructor’s Profile
Coursera Profile (to be updated)

Course Goals and Objectives

Upon successful completion of this course, you will be able to:
  • Explain what globalization is and identify the forces connected to it.
  • Explain what culture is and where culture exists or manifests itself.
  • Understand patterns of cultural variation around the globe.
  • Explain what cultural equity is and how brands can become cultural symbols.
  • Analyze how globalization impacts the psychological responses of consumers in global markets.
  • Evaluate actions for imbuing brands with cultural meanings that can win-over consumers in globalized markets.
  • Develop a plan for building an iconic brand.
  • Develop moral sensitivity to ethical dilemmas in global commerce.
  • Identify ethical issues in global business.
  • Master stakeholder analysis.
  • Address issues from more than one point of view.
  • Use a well-reasoned process by which to arrive at ethically-defensible decisions.
  • Evaluate good and weak arguments.
  • Defend your conclusions through a well-developed framework for moral reasoning.

Topics of this course

  • Module 1: Globalization, Culture, and Brands
  • Module 2: Cultural Mindsets and Assimilation to a Cultural Frame
  • Module 3: Culture Mixing and Its Consequences
  • Module 4: Focusing on Culture to Build Iconic Brands
  • Module 5: Is Ethics Part of Business?
  • Module 6: Stakeholder Theory: Bayer CropScience in India
  • Module 7: In Rome Should We Do as the Romans Do?
  • Module 8: Why Do Good People and Good Organizations do Bad Things?

Course Materials

Module 1-4

Module 5-8

The textbook is available for free on the web. No need to purchase it anywhere. There are additional required and supplemental readings, cases, and videos. The links to all required readings and videos are provided in the weekly agendas.

Live Session Schedule (Tentative)

August 16th, 2017 – October 10th, 2017

Thursdays 8:00 PM – 9:00 PM US Central Time
Fridays 9:00 AM – 10:00 AM US Central Time

Course Elements


  • Lesson Slides
  • Lecture Videos
  • Readings
  • Module Quizzes
  • Forum Discussions
  • Peer Assignment


  • Individual Assignments
  • Team Assignments
  • Peer Discussion
  • Peer Evaluation
  • Final Assignment Paper
  • Live Sessions with the instructors occur every week, on Wed 8AM or Wed 6PM.