|The business environment creates ethical choices that can be hard to think through clearly. It can also subject companies to negative publicity or political pressure, which affects both how they are regulated and how well they attract employees, customers and partners. So business leaders are often called upon to make credible and persuasive arguments defending their products, their firms, their industries, or the capitalist system in which they operate.
Doing this effectively – in a variety of settings – is an essential aspect of business leadership, given the extensive influence of government rules, pressure groups and the media on modern business. This is especially true now, when so many people are raising questions about the role of capitalism itself.
Students in this course will gain experience forming and articulating coherent arguments about the ethics and role of business, by relating their own views to important ideas about business and capitalism and then working to ground them in clear thinking and informed ethical reasoning. We will use this approach to consider a broad range of tradeoffs and controversies that business leaders often confront.
Arriving at informed views that reflect your beliefs is essential to handling these tradeoffs and controversies effectively, and in ways you can feel good about. It is also only part of the challenge in modern business. Managers must also handle criticism from groups who might gain something by weakening a firm or industry’s reputation, or by questioning the legitimacy of the marketplace in which businesses operate. Critics can include rival firms, politicians, workers, pressure groups, journalists, customers and suppliers.
The quality and accuracy of these groups’ arguments vary, but usually include assertions that a business or its leaders are behaving unethically or lack legitimacy. The ability to respond to these claims, and counter them effectively when the facts and arguments are on your side, is a crucial management skill. This is easier to do when you can think through how your assessments relate to broader ideas about business and capitalism.