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Ethics and responsibility

Ethics and responsibility
Master programme in
Business studies * / Business Administration and Leadership * / Business Administration and Leadership / Business Administration and Leadership
Type of activity


Teaching language
Study regulation
Number of participants
Responsible for the activity
Jacob Dahl Rendtorff (jacrendt@ruc.dk)
Head of study
Margit Neisig (neisig@ruc.dk)
Study administration
ISE Registration & Exams (ise-exams@ruc.dk)
Exam code(s)
Overall objective

Via the course, students gain a critical insight into and understanding of the ethics and responsibilities of companies in relation to business and society. The student gains knowledge and understanding of corporate ethics and responsibility in relation to topical dilemmas concerning the relationship of companies with the outside world and democratic legitimacy. The course provides insight into the principal theories of business ethics and corporate social responsibility (CSR) and legitimacy, with in-depth case studies of companies in an international and global perspective.

Detailed description of content

This course analyzes corporate social responsibility (CSR), environmental, social and governance standards (ESG), sustainable development goals (SDGs), corporate citizenship, public relations, public affairs, stakeholder engagement, globalization and trust in the framework of responsibility, ethics and legitimacy of corporations. The aim of the course is to introduce students to the theory and practice of responsible business in the perspective of ethics and legitimacy. We will investigate major theories of corporate social responsibility (CSR) and business ethics—relating them to corporate practices and emerging trends and requirements of legitimacy. We will look at the major schools of corporate social responsibility (CSR), for example: the strategic conception (CSR as a tool for profit maximization), the international conception (CSR as respect for human rights in international business), the communicative conception (CSR as stakeholder management), and the ethical conception (CSR as business ethics). In addition, we will investigate major theories of legitimacy in business ethics, for example stakeholder management. Moreover, we will discuss conceptions of business and society based on CSR-impact and the voluntary-mandatory dichotomy of a stick and carrot approach to business compliance with ESG-standards and theories related to business and human rights and compliance with UN global compact standards. These theories will be related to legal developments of regulation of CSR and business ethics in Europe, United States and at the level of the United Nations with emergent trends of business and sustainable development goals (SDGs). Recent years have been characterized by a tremendous development in requirements of Legitimacy and compliance with environmental, social and governance (ESG) standards and UN global compact values of due diligence of business in society. Now, we do not only talk about business and society but indeed about business for society. In many cases, reporting procedures and accountability programs for corporate and social values are introduced into the organization to respond to increased complexity and concern for legitimacy. The corporate boards see management of ESG, sustainability and SDGs as a means to ensure not only the responsibility and integrity of the organization but also efficient management, competitiveness and legitimacy of the firm in a complex democratic society with strong expectations to corporations. We can summarize this as an evolution towards a “new economy of legitimate corporate citizenship” that “brings together competencies from civil society, labour organizations, business, government and international bodies “. With business ethics and values-driven management corporations aim at contributing to civil governance of global sustainability and they become responsible for long term social processes of developing society in collaboration and dialogue with their stakeholders. We can say that corporations are changing their role in society not only through new partnerships with governments but also by making ethics, social responsibility and participation in governance processes part of their core strategies. A closer integration of ethics , responsibility and business in order to ensure corporate legitimacy seems especially necessary with pressing challenges of global sustainability and political change, which have persuaded critical stakeholders to require increased responsibility of corporations for sustainable development goals (SDGs).

Course material and Reading list


Rendtorff, Jacob Dahl (ed.) (2020) . Handbook of Business Legitimacy. Responsibility, Ethics and Society. Cham: Springer International Publishers. (Available for free download online)

Jacob Dahl Rendtorff (2018). Cosmopolitan Business Ethics. Towards a Global Ethos of Management, Routledge, London 2018 (Available as free e-book from the University library).

Bonnafous-Boucher, Maria and Jacob Dahl Rendtorff (2016). Stakeholder Theory : A Model for Strategic Management. (Springer Briefs in Ethics). New York: Springer Science+Business Media B.V.


Carroll, Archie B. (1999). Corporate Social Responsibility: Evolution of a Definitional Construct, Business and Society1999 38: 268.

Christensen, Lars Thøger Mette Morsing and Ole Thyssen (2013). CSR as aspirational talk. Organization 20(3) 372–393.

Freeman, Edward,. S. Ramakrishna Velamuri, Brian Moriarty. (2006). Company Stakeholder Responsibility: A New Approach to CSR. Business Roundtable Institute for corporate Ethics.

Mitchell, Ronald K., Bradley R. Agle og Donna J. Wood (1997). “Toward a Theory of Stakeholder Identification and Salience: Defining the Principle of Who and What really counts” i Academy of Management Review, vol. 22, nr. 4: 853-886.

Scherer, Andreas Georg and Guido Palazzo (2011). The New Political Role of Business in a Globalized World: A Review of a New Perspective on CSR and its Implications for the Firm, Governance, and Democracy, Journal of Management Studies 48:4 June 2011.

Scherer, Andreas Georg , Guido Palazzo and Dirk Matten (2014). The Business Firm as a Political Actor: A New Theory of the Firm for a globalized world, Business & Society Review 53(2) 143–156

Suchman, M.C., (1995): “Managing Legitimacy: Strategic and Institutional Approaches” i Academy of Management Review, vol. 20, no. 3.

Overall plan and expected work effort

The classes will consist of lectures by the professors and instructors on the basis of prepared class readings by participants in the students. This will be combined with group preparations of class presentations for discussions in class based on case studies of home assignment. In addition, there will be short video presentations of cases of dilemmas of ethics and responsibilty of business. Class discussions will lead to preparation of exams by groups of students who will present theory and practice of responsibility and ethics related specific business cases from particular business organizations.

It is expected that students will be about to analyze specific business ethics dilemmas using theories of responsible business to develop strategic decisions for taking appropriate action towards involved stakeholders. In this context, students are required to be able to apply ethical theory and reflective judgment to evaluate ethical issues of compliance and due diligence in business. This means that students should understand the different dimension of CSR, ESG and SDG strategies and justify decisions regarding business and society. Students should also be able to understand the different positions of responsible ethics and business and they are expected to perform critical analysis of the challenges and dilemmas that business are facing. This implies abilities of understanding the challenges of reflective and responsible leadership in practical business between market and society.

The total workload is approximately 270 hours. This is into the following activities: 26 hours lectures (13 x 2 lectures), 26 hours on student presentations + peer feedback exercises, 60 hours for group work discussions of texts, 108 hours on weakly reading of curriculum texts (on average 8 hours reading per week), 50 hours for preparation of the exam (including the oral exam itself)

Evaluation and feedback

The activity are evaluated regularly regarding the study board evaluation procedure. The activity responsible will be orientated about a potential evaluation of the activity at semesterstart. Se link to the study board evaluation praxis here https://intra.ruc.dk/nc/for-ansatte/organisering/raad-naevn-og-udvalg/oversigt-over-studienaevn/studienaevn-for-erhvervsoekonomi-og-virksomhedsstudier/arbejdet-med-kvalitet-i-uddannelserne/

  1. Introduction

  2. Background. Major Theoretical Concepts. Research Methodology. Outline of the Course. Aim of the Course. Requirements for Exams. The lectures will be followed up by student exercises based on case studies of business corporations.

  3. Global Political Corporations and Business Ethics

  4. Values, Markets and Global Capitalism.

  5. Values, Organization, and Management. From Values-driven Management to Business Ethics.

  6. Discussion of Cases of Managing Legitimacy in Business Corporations.

  7. Business Ethics and Corporate Social Responsibility in the Different Fields of Business.

  8. Corporate Social Responsibility and Principles of Stakeholder Justice.

  9. Ethics of the Internal Constituencies of the Corporation.

  10. Ethics of the External Constituencies of the Corporation.

  11. Sustainability, Corporate Social Responsibility, and Ethical Principles: Environmental Dimensions of Business Ethics.

  12. Legal and Political Developments: Challenges to Global Business Ethics.

  13. Values-driven Management and Ethics Programs in the United States.

  14. Business Ethics, CSR and Corporate Citizenship in Europe.

  15. Towards Ethical Guidelines for International Business Corporations.

  16. Policy Proposals for Corporate Strategy.

  17. Basic Ethical Principles for Business Ethics and Corporate Citizenship.

  18. Strategic Foundations of Policy Proposals. Corporate Governance and Stakeholder Management.

  19. Basic Principles of Values-driven Management.

  20. Critical conceptions of CSR and Business Ethics.

  21. Discussion of Cases of Managing Legitimacy in Business Corporations.

  22. Preparation for Exams.

Overall learning outcomes

  • Students acquire knowledge of the theory and practice of corporate ethics and social responsibility (CSR) in relation to legitimacy and society, and gain an understanding of ethical and responsible decision-making in managers in relation to the political and social role of companies in the societal complexity of globalisation. Through theory and case studies, students learn to address ethical challenges in responsible management and formulate strategies for legitimate business in relation to stakeholders in various cultural and social contexts. Finally, students acquire ethical formulation skills in relation to complex strategic decision-making in a global perspective.

Form of examination
Oral group exam based on a product written by a group.

Permitted group size: 2-6 students.

The character limit of the written product is:
For 2 students: maximum 14,400 characters, including spaces.
For 3 students: maximum 14,400 characters, including spaces.
For 4 students: maximum 14,400 characters, including spaces.
For 5 students: maximum 14,400 characters, including spaces.
For 6 students: maximum 14,400 characters, including spaces.
The character limits include the cover, table of contents, bibliography, figures and other illustrations, but exclude any appendices.

Time allowed for exam including time used for assessment is for:
2 students: 30 minutes.
3 students: 35 minutes.
4 students: 40 minutes.
5 students: 45 minutes.
6 students: 50 minutes.

The assessment is individual and based on the student's individual performance.
The assessment is an overall assessment of the written product(s) and the subsequent oral examination..

Permitted support and preparation materials at the oral exam: All.

Assessment: 7-point grading scale.
Moderation: Internal co-assessor.
Form of Re-examination
Samme som ordinær eksamen / same form as ordinary exam
Type of examination in special cases
Examination and assessment criteria

Demonstrate knowledge regarding the basic theories of business ethics and CSR
Analyze strategic problems and challenges of business ethics and CSR in business cases.
Develop and evaluate a business ethics case strategy based on theory and practice
Discuss reflect critically on the limits of different theories of business ethics and CSR
Compliance with all formalities and requirements for oral exams based on group products.

Exam code(s)
Exam code(s) : U60026GB
Last changed 06/03/2023

lecture list:

Show lessons for Subclass: 1 Find calendar (1) PDF for print (1)

Thursday 09-02-2023 10:15 - 09-02-2023 12:00 in week 06
Ethics and Responsibility (BAL, VL)

Thursday 16-02-2023 10:15 - 16-02-2023 12:00 in week 07
Ethics and Responsibility (BAL, VL)

Thursday 23-02-2023 10:15 - 23-02-2023 12:00 in week 08
Ethics and Responsibility (BAL, VL)

Thursday 02-03-2023 10:15 - 02-03-2023 12:00 in week 09
Ethics and Responsibility (BAL, VL)

Thursday 09-03-2023 10:15 - 09-03-2023 12:00 in week 10
Ethics and Responsibility (BAL, VL)

Thursday 16-03-2023 10:15 - 16-03-2023 12:00 in week 11
Ethics and Responsibility (BAL, VL)

Thursday 23-03-2023 10:15 - 23-03-2023 12:00 in week 12
Ethics and Responsibility (BAL, VL)

Thursday 30-03-2023 10:15 - 30-03-2023 12:00 in week 13
Ethics and Responsibility (BAL, VL)

Thursday 13-04-2023 10:15 - 13-04-2023 12:00 in week 15
Ethics and Responsibility (BAL, VL)

Thursday 20-04-2023 10:15 - 20-04-2023 12:00 in week 16
Ethics and Responsibility (BAL, VL)

Friday 12-05-2023 10:00 - 12-05-2023 10:00 in week 19
Ethics and Responsibility - Submission of assignment (BAL, VL)

Monday 12-06-2023 08:15 - Tuesday 13-06-2023 18:00 in week 24
Ethics and Responsibility - Oral exam (BAL, VL)

Wednesday 09-08-2023 10:00 - 09-08-2023 10:00 in week 32
Ethics and Responsibility - Resubmission of assignment (BAL, VL)

Wednesday 16-08-2023 08:15 - 16-08-2023 18:00 in week 33
Ethics and Responsibility - Reexam (BAL, VL)