The Influence of Business Ethics on Lebanese University Students: Can Business Ethics Be Learned?

Article excerpt

Abstract. When it comes to business ethics, views diverge and conflict. There are those who believe that ethics can't be taught but is rather a development, such as Aristotle; and there are those who like Socrates, believe that ethics is knowing what we ought to do, and therefore this knowledge can be learned. In the Lebanese society that faces ethical crises, ethical education becomes important. When business students are taught that "business is business" and business deals are "not a matter of ethics, but of business" in class, it becomes difficult to show them that "good ethics, is good business". In such conditions ethical education becomes imperative. Teaching ethics means that one believes that people can change, that ethical behavior can be taught. However, is this applicable? Can we teach Hitler or Bernard Madoffethics or as Orwin (2009) implies "Can we teach pigs to fly?" This paper investigated the effects of learning business ethics on various Lebanese university students who have successfully completed the course's objectives. The participants were the researcher's students in two local universities, which caused limitations of the results for they couldn't be generalized. The results revealed that ethics course(s) did positively affect the students' behavior.

Key Words: business, ethics, education, influence, university students, attitude.

1. INTRODUCTION

Most societies promote ambition, personal gain and pursuit of self-interest (Mann, 2005). The Lebanese society is no different. However, after various scandals, societies have started calling for action in rethinking business attitudes. Rossouw (2004) argues that in our modern times business ethics has gained strategic importance in the world of business, because the attitudes have changed. In the past, businesses have always been given the sole responsibility of maximizing profit. However, now businesses are expected to recognize the importance of their responsibilities toward society and to follow in good conscious ethical standards.

The public's loss of faith and respect towards the ethical values of the available business people has turned the issue of neglecting business ethics of high importance since this act establishes a high risk action which could heavily cost companies whether financially or in terms of reputation. In his study, Sedmak (2010) blame the 2008/2009 global economic crisis on the unethical business practices done by major companies around the world. Such scandals have revealed to the public the need of managers having ethics education because they run business and business being the running engine for economic development, has significant influence on the evolution and well-being of the societies (Crane, 2010).

The many scandals have made many companies aware of how much unethical behavior can cost them (Luthar, Dibathista & Gautschi, 1997). Unethical behavior in business causes heavy damages to all fractions of society (Crane, 2010). For this reason, the best interest for all is following "corporate social responsibility (CSR) as the way out when dealing with social and environmental ills" (Doane, 2005). This CSR is the tool that will incorporate ethics and values into business goals (Fombrun & Foss, 2004). Companies who practice CSR have had greater amounts of investments in the past years (Dunfee, 2003).

All this has brought increased attention toward the teaching of business ethics. There is increasing pressure on business schools to prepare their graduates for the ethical dilemmas in business (Lau, Carcciolo, Roddenberry & Scroggins, 2012). Business schools are becoming aware of their responsibilities of acquainting their graduates with all possible ethical challenges they might face at work. A lot of discussions regarding ethics education are taking place and matters of business ethics are widely discussed in the professional and academic literature (Gaa & Thorne, 2004; Felton & Sims, 2005; Lau, Carcciolo, Roddenberry & Scroggins, 2012). …