This is lesson six of six on business ethics.

Here are links to the other five:

Lesson 01-01, Lesson 01-02

Lesson 02-01, Lesson 02-02

Lesson 03-01, Lesson 03-02


Corporations increasingly realize the need to make their business models more environmentally sustainable, whether to answer customer concerns, reap savings from efficiency improvements, obey new government regulations and carbon caps, or simply satisfy the collective conscience of employees.

But with the outburst of enthusiasm for environmental causes has come a lot of hype, subjecting many companies to accusations of "greenwashing"—the use of environmental rhetoric for marketing purposes without significant underlying changes in business practices.


Prepare a 30-minute lecture drawing off the assigned readings and related ethics questions listed below.


A. In-Class Activities
Listen: Lecture (30 minutes)

Do: Discussion (30 minutes)

B. Assignments to Be Completed in Advance (0-2+ hours)
Listen: Matthew Taylor, "Bridging the Social Aspiration Gap," Workshop for Ethics in Business (November 14, 2007)

RSA Chief Executive Matthew Taylor says that in order to tackle climate change we must also bridge the social aspiration gap. That is, our vision for a better life will not be reached without the will to change how we think and behave. Such change requires appropriate government regulation, business commitment, and citizen and consumer action.

"Taking Stock of Business and Human Rights: Policies and Practices," Policy Innovations (March 22, 2007)

This transcript of the first Workshop for Ethics in Business includes remarks from the Business & Human Rights Resource Centre, BP, and the Interfaith Center for Corporate Responsibility."

With trillions of dollars already wiped off the global balance sheet by falling asset values, and the world's major economies heading into recession, how will we find the financing to develop and deploy the technologies we need to mitigate and adapt to climate change?

Christina L. Madden, "Responsible Profit: Climate Change and the Green Economy," Policy Innovations (November 13, 2007)

The rapporteur's summary from the third Workshop for Ethics in Business features discussion of the social aspiration gap, personal carbon trading, building megacommunities to solve collective problems, fair negotiating with developing countries, and a carbon price for the financial sector.

Christina L. Madden, "Growing Green During Downturn," Policy Innovations (April 22, 2008)

With the threat of recession, the emphasis on green in business is shifting from the environment back to dollars.

John Mizzoni, "Going Green with Gravitas: The Moral Duty of Sustainable Businesses," Policy Innovations (July 25, 2008)

Philosophy professor John Mizzoni outlines three arguments for why businesses should become sustainable: their historic responsibility for emissions, the fact that they benefited from those emissions through profitability, and their ability to make reforms without incurring costs that would damage their businesses.


A. How can companies go green and remain profitable?

B. Should companies be responsible for the life-cycle of the products they sell, including disposal or recycling?

C. What are the relative benefits of carbon taxes versus cap and trade regimes?


Robert Collier, "Can Green Trade Tariffs Combat Climate Change?" Project Syndicate (April 2008)

Are environmental trade tariffs a fair and effective way to account for shipping pollution, or would they be manipulated as a form of protectionism?

Mark Fulton, Finding the Right Carbon Price (audio), Workshop for Ethics in Business (November 2, 2007)

Markets need prices, and effective business approaches to climate change need the right carbon price to make reliable investments in sustainability.

John Lash, "A Blueprint for Today's Sustainability," Policy Innovations (October 31, 2007)
Full Report

Businesses are already finding ways to become sustainable, including carbon mitigation, efficiency improvements, product innovation, and developing consumer awareness.