Sustainable business ethics education

Meena Chavan*, Leanne Carter

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


Recent events, like the failure of Enron, the US financial crisis and closure of other United States-based finance companies, the European Union (EU) financial crisis, the Brexit and the campaign over high board room salaries, have focused attention on the ethics of managing business. This has provided added momentum to those in charge of management education, to integrate a critical perspective on business ethics.

Sustainable development is broadly defined as development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs (Brundtland, 1987). Sustainable ethics is a novel discipline that concerns present society’s moral obligations to future generations with respect to the environment.

For supporting sustainability through education requires not only critiquing the current mechanistic educational paradigm, its theory and practice (Lozano et al., 48, 10–19, 2013), but also offering a credible and practical alternative; an ecological paradigm (Zhou et al., 8(6), 2013) that starts with a vision of a fairer society and a better world, re-examination of core values embedded in education, and design of learning models to signify and improve ethics education in business schools (Hooker, 2004).

A cognitive perspective assumes that business ethics can be taught through acquiring knowledge by reasoning, intuition, and perceptions. An affective perspective contests such a premise, suggesting that ethics is better learnt through emotional experiences. This latter perspective lies at the heart of experiential learning activities (ELAs) and critical action learning (CAL)—already methods of teaching in business schools but under-utilized in teaching within the discipline of business ethics.

This study examines the collective impact of ELA and CAL on student learning of management ethics. Students’ personal narratives were obtained through focus groups and semi-structured interviews following their participation in experiential and action learning activities. Results indicate that teaching business ethics through ELAs and CAL leads to social benefits for students, co-creation and improved and increased engagement with peers, academics and industry.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationMeeting expectations in management education
Subtitle of host publicationsocial and environmental pressures on managerial behaviour
EditorsElizabeth Christopher
Place of PublicationCham
PublisherSpringer, Springer Nature
Number of pages22
ISBN (Electronic)9783319764122
ISBN (Print)9783319764115
Publication statusPublished - 26 May 2018


  • Business ethics
  • critical action learning
  • experiential learning
  • social benefits
  • co-creation


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