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Introduction to Business Ethics

  • Teacher(s):  
  • Course given in: English
  • ECTS Credits:
  • Schedule: Autumn Semester 2021-2022, 2.0h. course (weekly average)
  •  sessions
  • site web du cours course website
  • Related programmes:
    Bachelor of Science (BSc) in Management

    Bachelor (BSc) in Economic Sciences
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Key learning objectives of the course are (1) to get acquainted with ethical theories and (2) to apply these theories to better understand current issues in business ethics.


The course is composed of 13 sessions of one and a half hours each. The course starts on September 23, 2021.

The course instructor will provide detailed information on the course content in Session 1. In Sessions 2-8, we will study ethical theories as summarized in the work of Michael Sandel. In Sessions 9-12, we will apply these theories to discuss current social and economic challenges. We will discuss the responsibility of business firms to solve these challenges. The last session concludes with some reflections.

The course is restricted to 50 participants, which will be selected on a competitive basis. If more than 50 students are interested in taking the class, I will ask you to write a short essay and upload it on Moodle. Your essay should address an ethical dilemma that an organization (business firm, NGO, government agency, etc.) or an individual (manager, politician, celebrity, etc.) faced. Please describe briefly how the organization or individual reacted to the ethical dilemma and reflect whether the behavior was “right.” Please stick to the word limit of 500 words (excluding references and bibliography). The deadline for uploading the essay is September 26, 2021, 11:59:59 pm. Late submissions will not be taken into consideration.


Required reading:

Sandel, M. J. (2010). Justice: What’s the right thing to do? New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux.

Optional readings:

Crane, A. & Matten, D. (2010). Business ethics: Managing corporate citizenship and sustainability in the age of globalization, 3rd edition. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Sandel, M. J. (2007). Justice: A reader. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Before ordering these books, please check whether they are available in the UNIL libraries.


You should have a keen interest in the relationship between business, politics and society. You should also be or become informed about contemporary challenges, such as global warming, inequality, migration, political polarization, and the controversy around “post-truth politics.”

Openness to non-mainstream viewpoints and “thinking outside the box” will help you to enjoy the course.


First attempt

Without exam (cf. terms)  

There is no final exam during the exam period at the end of the semester. Instead, course participants are asked to work together in groups and apply the ethical theories introduced in the course in a case study of their choice. The final grade for each student is composed of a class assignment (30%), class participation (15%), a class presentation (15%), and a group paper of 10-12 pages (40%). The group paper needs to be handed in until January 18, 2022, 11:59:59 pm.


Without exam (cf. terms)  

Written complement for the group paper: 40%

Class assignment: 30%

Class participation: 15%

Class presentation: 15%

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