Integrating Ethics into Entrepreneurship Education: An Exploratory Textbook Analysis

Article excerpt


In this study, we content analyzed a sample of small business and entrepreneurship textbooks to assess the extent to which ethics is integrated into them. Our findings show significantly limited integration and coverage of ethics concepts and applications. We discuss a possible missing link between small business, entrepreneurship, and ethics in business textbooks and also discuss some implications for better integrating ethics into entrepreneurship education.


Ethical entrepreneurship has grown into an accepted phenomenon.

Wempe, 2005,p.211

Since the emergence of entrepreneurship as an academic field, entrepreneurship education has grown in content and depth (Greene, Katz, & Johannison, 2004; Katz, 2003). Thousands of post secondary institutions around the world have incorporated entrepreneurship into curricula and programs. Entrepreneurship is now accepted as being a core concentration or major area of study at both graduate and undergraduate levels in many North American business schools. In addition, other faculties such as engineering, natural sciences and other applied social sciences have incorporated entrepreneurship as an elective and core course in their curricula.

At the same time, there has been an increased focus on ethical and social entrepreneurship in many universities as well as in many profit and non-profit organizations (e.g., Carney, 2007; Dahle, 2006/07; Maguire & Hardy, 2006; Tracey & Phillips, 2007; Although many business schools have broadened the entrepreneurship teaching-learning process to include ethical and social entrepreneurship, many of the textbooks in small business and entrepreneurship seem to continue to narrowly focus on the doctrine of creating ventures for purposes of wealth creation and market growth. We suggest that this undermines efforts made by some business faculty to emphasize the vital role of entrepreneurship education in creating economic values that are bounded by ethically and socially responsible business practice.

We consider the extent to which ethics and social responsibility topics appear within a sample of small business and entrepreneurship textbooks. There have been few studies of analyzing business textbooks for ethical and social responsibility content. Baetz and Sharp (2004) explored a number of texts in functional area courses for integration of ethics and drew the conclusion that ethics content was lacking in both the amount of material and the "quality" of the ethics content. Others have found inconsistencies and variations in the presentation of ethical issues in accounting, marketing, management, and economic texts (e.g., Bracken & Urbancic, 1999; Hoaas & Wilcox, 1995). To our knowledge no one has content analyzed small business and entrepreneurship textbooks for ethical content.

Edelman, Manolova, and Brush (2008, p. 67) have recently called for "a renewed focus on the content of entrepreneurship education." In their study, they found that most U. S. -based entrepreneurship courses use at least one entrepreneurship textbook. Although not focusing on integration of ethics, these authors found a discrepancy between what is taught in entrepreneurship texts and what is being practiced by emerging entrepreneurs. No matter how one defines the concepts of entrepreneurship and ethics, all entrepreneurs, like all business people, encounter ethical dilemmas and ethical decision making, no matter what the size or nature of the enterprise. Both business educators and practitioners will find this study useful in putting forward arguments for broader coverage of ethics and social responsibility in small business and entrepreneurship textbooks and programs, as well as in trying to find ways to better integrate ethics and entrepreneurship throughout business curricula, programs, and pedagogical materials.

We begin by first reviewing the literature on ethics and entrepreneurship, and entrepreneurship and ethics in management education. …