Ethics in Contemporary Organizations* [CRN 83294 Course] [CRN 83295 Recitation]

Discipline: Business
Instructor: Brown
Credits: 3
Day: A
Start: 1110
End: 1230
Field Work: Day 2 | October 29, 2019 | Ghana
Prerequisites: One (1) college composition course OR one (1) honors seminar Download Syllabus

Socrates said that morality is about “no small matter, but how we ought to live.” In this course we will study ethical decision making in organizations, mostly corporations. Through the study of leading philosophical, psychological, economic, and practical judgment constructs and examples, students will discover and develop their own values and habits for living and working consistent with their own values. Using textbook readings, real-world case studies, interactive exercises, and exams, students will learn to think critically and logically argue about the role and purpose of their behaviors in business and society. They will identify the risks and opportunities associated with business conduct and uncover ways to address such risks and opportunities as working professionals, identifying ways to give voice to their values and how they want to put ethics into practice in the real world. Students are encouraged to form their own views on the ethical and social responsibility of businesses. Throughout this course, students will be challenged to justify their views using sound ethical reasoning and to practice articulating their positions orally in class and through written assignments. Additionally, we will review the historical, cultural, political and legal determinants of contemporary ethical practices and regulation in each of the countries we will be visiting on the voyage.

Learning Objectives:

To have students meet and have discussions with professionals in country so that they can describe the institutions, incentives and regulations that form society and the institutions which govern resource allocations and use, and result in wealth growth and distribution. After completing this course, the successful student will be able to:

  • Explain the fundamentals of normative ethics, different ethical theories, and core ethical concepts.
  • Demonstrate the application of ethical theories to concrete business cases and dilemmas.
  • Explain the meaning of ethical and economic aspects for individual self-identity, integrity, and personal and professional development.
  • Demonstrate the relevance of ethical principles for business success and for the positive, long-term development of organizations.
  • Identify and analyze ethical aspects in various business and organizational situations.


*Note: This class is delivered when lunch is served.

Field Work

Country: Ghana
Day: 2
Date: October 29, 2019

Cocoa, the basis for chocolate, is one of the world’s largest trading commodities.  Ghana exports 20% of world cocoa supplies, second only to neighboring Ivory Coast.  Although cocoa is a huge cash crop, commodity prices fluctuate dramatically at times and it is a difficult business for the small farmers typical in this industry.  Input costs of growing cocoa can be high and the weather has become less predictable with climate change.  There are also serious labor rights issues associated with the cocoa industry, including reports of pervasive child slavery on cocoa plantations in the Ivory Coast.  In Ghana, the national government monitors and controls cocoa sales through an organization called the COCOBOB, which is an important source of revenue for the government and sets cocoa prices received by growers and establishes minimum wages for workers.  The COCOBOD’s control of this commodity might also make it difficult to reward innovative growers or international chocolate buyers like Nestle and Hershey who might want to promote sustainability and higher quality cocoa beans.

We will visit and tour of a cocoa growing region including a visit to an NGO working with cocoa farmers and a visit to COCOBOD, the government agency involved with monitoring the sourcing and exporting of cocoa.  We will see how cocoa is grown and hear about the problems farmers face.  Cocoa farmers in Ghana can be seen as representative of small farmers all over the world, trying to make a living selling commodity crops with very little control over prices or our changing climate.

 Learning Objectives:

  1. Gain an understanding of the characteristics of cocoa growing in Ghana and its important role in the global chocolate industry.

  2. Understand the role of private enterprise, NGOs, government agencies, multinational companies and other stakeholders in advancing (or limiting) social and environmental issues in Ghanaian cocoa growing regions.

  3. Understand the pressures that inhibit farmers from using the most sustainable practices in Ghana.