Search for contacts, projects,
courses and publications

Business Ethics



  • Understanding the underlying normative foundations of business. This means to get both a brief introduction into general ethics and the history of business ethics.
  • Getting a state-of-the-art understanding of topics discussed in business ethics (see contents)
  • Multilateral thinking: Approaching ethical challenges in business from different ethical perspectives
  • Critical thinking: Business ethics lives from questioning and challenging existing practices and concepts.


Business ethics addresses ethical issues and challenges of businesses and the legal, societal, environmental or cultural frameworks corporations operate in. Unlike similar concepts such as ‘corporate social responsibility’, ‘sustainable management’, ‘corporate citizenship’ or ‘sustainable development’ business ethics applies a more foundational perspective of normative implications of business conduct and the economy at large. The most fundamental ethical theories derived from practical philosophy are introduced (utilitarianism, virtue ethics, deontology, discourse ethics) and discussed against the antagonism of ‘morals’ and ‘ethics’.

Topics to be discussed in the business ethics course are: 1. (on an micro level): good life, ethical leadership, individual responsibility, whistle-blowing, “social egg freezing”. 2. (on a meso level): code of ethics/conduct, corporate culture, gender/diversity in business, compliance or good governance. 3. (on a macro level): economic system, social cohesion, order ethics, global business ethics, future of capitalism. Additionally key terms such as freedom, value, utility, common good, or deliberation are presented and discussed. Following several major scandals such as the Enron collapse, the Rana-Plaza building collapse, the Deepwater horizon oil-spill or most recently the diesel emission scandal managerial implications and legal consequences are discussed and reflected.

Towards the end of the course more contemporary issues stemming from USI-based research are discussed regarding digitalization, blockchain or instant-transparency.



In the course, different teaching and learning methods are applied. Among the most used are: lectures, presentations, group discussions, working groups, case studies and open space.



30% in class presentation, 70% written exam



Brenkert, G., & Beauchamp, T. (2012). The Oxford handbook of business ethics. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

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

Dierksmeier, Claus; Seele, Peter (2016): Cryptocurrencies and Business Ethics. Journal of Business Ethics  doi:10.1007/s10551-016-3298-0 (selected by Springer Editors-in-Chief in the collection: “Change the World”)

Enderle, G. (2016). How can Business Ethics strengthen the social cohesion of a society? Journal of Business Ethics. DOI 10.1007/s10551-016-3196-5

Freeman, E. (2000). Business ethics at the millennium. Business Ethics Quarterly, 10(1), 169–180.

Michalos, A., & Poff, D. (2013). Citation classics from the Journal of Business Ethics. Celebrating the first thirty years of publication. New York: Springer Books.

Saul, G. K. (1981). Business ethics: Where are we going? Academy of Management Review, 6(2), 269–276.

Seele, Peter (2016):  "What makes a Business Ethicist?  A Reflection on the transition from applied philosophy to critical thinking". Journal of Business Ethics. DOI 10.1007/s10551-016-3177-8

Wicks, A. C., Freeman, R. E., & Werhane, P. (2009). Business ethics. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.



Seele P.

Course director

Schultz M. D.


Additional information

Academic year
Master of Science in Economics in Management, Elective course, Track in Socially Responsible Management, 2nd year