Academic journal article International Journal of Management

Ethics in Business Program Curricula: An Empirical Investigation of the Attitudes and Perceptions of United States Students

Academic journal article International Journal of Management

Ethics in Business Program Curricula: An Empirical Investigation of the Attitudes and Perceptions of United States Students

Article excerpt

Society and the international community continue to expect greater responsibility and ethical behavior from businesses and corporations. As business major graduates are the future business leaders of tomorrow, universities and colleges of business are responding by including greater attention to ethical issues awareness and responsibility in their programs of study. This study explored student attitudes and perceptions regarding the inclusion of ethical issues, awareness, and guidance in college of business program curricula and their perceptions of the significance of that exposure for their future careers. Our results showed that students have a generally positive attitude toward the inclusion of ethics issues and awareness in courses. Further, students in this sample felt that the knowledge gained from such coverage will benefit them in making future career choices, in making tough decisions, and in dealing with future management responsibilities.

An increasing number of business colleges are responding to the call of business and society to include in their degree programs some study of business ethics, or social responsibility. Clearly, businesses exist in a much larger world than that defined by their own corporate boundaries. Businesses and corporations use world resources to make a profit and they impact many stakeholders, beyond just shareholders, with the decisions, choices, and actions that they take. Thus, a modern perspective suggests that businesses have responsibilities and obligations to more than just shareholders; responsibilities extend as well to other stakeholders, or society (Boatright, 1997; Buchholz & Rosenthal, 1998; & DeGeorge, R.T.1995). Stakeholders include suppliers, customers, employees, stockholders, and communities around the globe-all of whom are impacted by the actions and behaviors of businesses and business leaders.

In accord with this reasoning, we must recognize that a corporation represents a system with attributes and powers, a degree of prominence entitling it to be dealt with as a major social institution. As a result, attention to morals and ethical behavior in their policies, procedures, cultural development, human resource training and management has become an imperative for all businesses. Further, many believe that as responsible citizens of the local, national, regional and global communities in which they operate, businesses play an important role in shaping the future of those communities (Carroll & Buchholtz, 2000; Boatright, 1997). Business leaders must face a number of factors when making important decisions; this includes consideration of shared world views on what are professionally acceptable practices (Boylan, 2001). Morality and prudence suggest that ethical awareness and responsible behavior are practical concepts and that businesses should be wise or cautious in this regard. Further, while profit maximization and/or cost minimization remain primary goals, it has also been shown that self-interest and good ethics can coincide.

United States society and governmental initiatives have for some time embraced the philosophical notion that businesses should be attentive and mindful, perhaps even proactive in protecting the rights of individuals and in taking all necessary steps to "do no harm" (Beauchamp & Bowie, 2001 ). However, it is now evident that many collective groups of business and government leaders, as well as citizens, are calling for a workable global consensus on acceptable coiporate behavior and a universal set of ethical principles or business guidelines. Several examples include the Caux Round Table, the International Labour Organization, the United Nations, and the World Trade Organization.

In 1948 the United Nations adopted and proclaimed the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (http://www.un.org/Overview/rights.html). This document represents a strong universal affirmation that human beings of all nations, regardless of ethnic or national background, deserve to have universally acknowledged human rights honored and protected. …

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