Academic journal article Southern Journal of Business and Ethics

Fighting Topic Irrelevance in Ethics and Csr Education: Using Pink Ribbon Campains, Experietial Learning, and Semster-Long Activities to Boost Engagement and Personal Connection

Academic journal article Southern Journal of Business and Ethics

Fighting Topic Irrelevance in Ethics and Csr Education: Using Pink Ribbon Campains, Experietial Learning, and Semster-Long Activities to Boost Engagement and Personal Connection

Article excerpt

Introduction and Background: Ethics and CSR

Ethics and corporate social responsibility (CSR) have come to the forefront of business, research, and business education as scandals change the landscape of society and a call is made for new kinds of leaders (Lissack & Richardson, 2003; Moratis, Hoff, & Reul, 2006; Pomering & Dolnicar, 2009; Templin & Christensen, 2009; Waddock & McIntosh, 2009). Even though the importance of ethics and CSR increases and business programs place increasing emphasis on them, they are very complex, multi-definitional, and they are viewed through many different lenses. Developing a basic grasp of those topics can be challenging. For example, academic work in CSR concentrates on its relationship to financial performance, its impact on stakeholder value, its measurement and its definition. It also ranges across various functional areas such as strategic decision-making, marketing, human resource management, operations, and information systems. Various academic reviews exist that could theoretically simplify its treatment in the business curriculum. However, work in CSR remains fragmented (Aguinis & Glavas, 2012; Carrol & Shabana, 2010) and that fragmentation is often reflected in and influenced by differences in business practice, policy, and general interpretations of which focus may be best. The vastness of the topic, therefore, presents a complexity that may dictate a more flexible approach to the topic. Some studies suggest that it is precisely that flexibility, though, that creates problems in effectively teaching useful best practices (Sharland, 2013). We acknowledge the complex nature of ethics and CSR due to the topic's diverse nature. However, rather than eliminate flexibility recommended by Sharland and colleagues, we created a series of flexible, semester-long, and student-based experiential activities that were especially sensitive to the freshmen student experience set. As we show below, these did appear successful in decreasing student indifference and intimidation when studying these complex topics.

We sought to avoid the alienation that can occur for freshmen when they are hit with static, multitudinous definitions and overwhelming topic introductions until we could help those students to discover the topic's relevance to themselves. They could then more easily tackle ethics and CSR challenges with their new sense of self-efficacy on the topic (Welch Jr., 2013). We had students examine a large but self-contained ethical and CSR context - the pink ribbon campaigns that dominate marketing efforts in October - and discovered what resonated with them. Once students found one or more aspects of this phenomenon that they found personally relevant, we were then able to examine the topic's diverse definitions and conceptual challenges, and experiment with ethics and CSR concepts in an increasingly complex way. For this paper, as in class, we define ethics very generally as the concern with right versus wrong; and we select a summary definition of CSR from a literature review to be "context-specific organizational actions and policies that take into account stakeholders' expectations and the triple bottom line of economic, social, and environmental performance" (Aguinis, 2011, p. 855). In summary, we designed a series of exercises to offset an intimidation factor that can occur with complex and abstract ethics and CSR topics. We provided the pink ribbon campaign, or breast cancer awareness, context which permitted students to explore their own personal ethics and to informally examine a CSR landscape by sharing those perspectives, informed by research, with their peers and found that students indeed had an easier time understanding and relating to those more familiar activities as they developed confidence with ethics and CSR abstraction and uncertainty.

Pink ribbon campaigns

One of the earliest breast cancer awareness ribbons was, in fact, peach colored. …

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