300-130: Corporate Social Responsibility & Ethics

CSR is a broad term that refers generally to the ethical role of the corporation in society. This course provides an innovative, internationally-oriented approach to the teaching of corporate social responsibility (CSR) and business ethics. Today, the global role of corporations rivals that of national or local governments. In 2000, it was reported that, of the 100 largest economic organizations in the world, 51 were corporations and 49 were countries. General Motors, Walmart, Exxon, and Daimler Chrysler all ranked higher than the nations of Poland, Norway, Finland and Thailand (in terms of economic size, comparing corporate revenues with national gross domestic product, or GDP). This phenomenon enables financial influences of the largest corporations to morph into social and political influence. With influence there can be abuses and increased corruption or a lapse of ethical judgement.

Drawing on case studies involving companies and countries around the world, the course explores the social, ethical and business dynamics underlying CSR in areas such as: global warming, genetically modified organisms (GMO) in food production, free trade and fair trade, anti-sweatshop and living-wage movements, organic foods and textiles, ethical marketing practices and codes, corporate speech and lobbying, and social enterprise. The course is designed to encourage students to challenge their own assumptions and prejudices by stimulating internal debate based on the study materials.