NBS8493 : Corporate Social Responsibility and the Challenge of Ethical Business

Semester 2 Credit Value: 10
ECTS Credits: 5.0


This module develops a critical appreciation of issues and debates concerning business’s involvement in, and impact on, major issues confronting society today and the consequent changes that are emerging in the role and responsibilities of business in relation to global society. Too often Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) is seen merely as an issue that business can manage. This module starts by considering such business-oriented understandings of ethical responsibility but then moves beyond this to look both at the wider impacts of business in society and at how globalisation is changing the nature of society’s expectations of responsible and ethical business. The module aims to develop the students’ critical faculties by inviting them to examine how as future managers of responsible businesses they might respond to these changing expectations.

The module starts by examining the origins and history of business ethics and corporate social responsibility (CSR). It then considers recent trends and developments in CSR and relevant aspects of corporate governance. This enables us to position the activities of business relative to wider social issues and challenges. The rest of the module then focuses on understanding the current, and potential future, role of business in relation to a selection of the major issues that confront global society today. Initially this is done in taught sessions but the module ends with a mini-conference and debate on topics of concern chosen by the students.

Outline Of Syllabus

The syllabus will typically cover the following themes:
•       Introduction to the role of business in society
•       Understanding ethics and morality
•       Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) – from philanthropy to politicisation
•       Current perspectives on CSR – the business case for responsibility or society’s case for business?
•       Corporate Governance: beyond risk management
•       Challenges to Business and Society today

The final teaching sessions focus on specific current issues relating to the role of business in society. Topics, vary from year to year depending on what is topical at the time, might include some of the following:
•       business responses to climate change
•       refocusing business in an age of scarcity and uncertainty
•       businesses, citizenship and whistleblowing
•       sustainable business and sustainability
•       business and international development
•       emerging economies and competition for resources
•       the rise in social entrepreneurship and not-for-profit businesses

The module ends with a mini-conference of group presentations on topics selected by the students. The mini-conference enables students to research, present and debate their own concerns and ideas about the future opportunities for moving from ‘business in society’ to ‘business for society’.

Teaching Methods

Teaching Activities
Category Activity Number Length Student Hours Comment
Guided Independent StudyAssessment preparation and completion130:0030:00N/A
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesLecture83:0024:00N/A
Guided Independent StudyDirected research and reading125:0025:00N/A
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesWorkshops18:008:00N/A
Guided Independent StudyStudent-led group activity15:005:00N/A
Guided Independent StudyIndependent study18:008:00N/A
Teaching Rationale And Relationship

Lectures supplement student reading to provide both theoretical and practical knowledge. In class discussions and activities enable students to develop their understanding through mutual learning. The flexibility at the end of the teaching sessions allow the taught module content to respond to current student concerns which the mini-conference format then enables students to pursue in more depth.

Assessment Methods

The format of resits will be determined by the Board of Examiners

Description Length Semester When Set Percentage Comment
Oral Presentation302M25Presentations will be given during the final workshop session
Other Assessment
Description Semester When Set Percentage Comment
Essay2M753,000 word essay, undertaken independently
Assessment Rationale And Relationship

Lectures, readings and class discussions / activities are designed to help students develop the understanding and analytical skills needed to complete the assessment. The mini-conference enables students to present (in assessed group presentations) and debate on issues of concern for themselves as they look ahead to their own careers in business and lives as global citizens. The written assessment then tests the students individually to assess how well they have developed both their factual understanding of the topic and their skills in applying their knowledge. Resit is by resubmission of a revised essay.

Reading Lists