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Friday, July 13, 2018


81 Annual Meeting of the VHB

June 12 - 14 2019

Rostock, Germany

Workshop report


Ethics as a Challenge in Business Studies


On 6 November 2009 a well-attended workshop on the topic of ethics was held at the University of Munich. The workshop was organised by Professor Dr. Pfingsten as the member of the VHB Board responsible for teaching in cooperation with the workgroup “Corporate Ethics and Business Research” and host Professor Dr. Dr. h.c. Küpper.


At the opening, Professor Pfingsten stressed the ethical dimension of economic activity, which, if not before, became a hot topic in the public eye during the financial and economic crisis. The subsequent lectures primarily addressed ethical aspects of economics and business in teaching. The holders of chairs geared towards economic ethics offered an insight into their individual concepts for the integration of ethical aspects into the business studies degree. Other speakers examined the demands on research and practice. The participants in the workshop were able to share experiences and reflections intensively in a pleasant communicative atmosphere and seized the opportunity for some lively discussions.     



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Während der gesamten Tagung wurde intensiv diskutiert.

In the opening talk The Contribution of Ethics towards Business Education, Professor Dr. Andreas Suchanek (Leipzig Graduate School of Management; HHL) highlighted the fundamental tension between the “big picture” and the “concrete details” and explained possible concerns regarding ethics that would make the use of normative ways of thinking difficult. The contribution of ethics in business studies should lie in the reasonable use of normative concepts in the context of business studies issues. For reasons of complexity, the speaker recommended concentrating on a small number of dilemmas within the framework of business research education, especially the relevant areas of conflict of morals and achieving profits, and appealed to the responsibility of university professors. In doing so, not indisputably, ethics was interpreted as a tool of sorts. The association was encouraged to offer courses on ethics.

Prof. Dr. Jörg Althammer

In his talk Economic and Corporate Ethics: Profiling Opportunity or Basic Requirement for Business Studies Faculties?, Professor Dr. Jörg Althammer (Catholic University of Eichstätt-Ingolstadt) stressed the importance of the normative context for entrepreneurial activities and formulated basic economically ethical requirements for a business studies degree and profiling possibilities in the field of economic and corporate ethics.

The speaker called for a stronger anchoring of normative aspects in teaching as the elementary bases for scientific practice (e.g. science theory) are no longer taught to a sufficient extent. Professor Althammer deemed profiling desirable in the field of economic and corporate ethics and described a feasible concept based on the example of the Catholic University of Eichstätt-Ingolstadt, which follows the path of interdisciplinarity in the foundation of an independent institute. He stressed that it was not about giving the students dedicated answers. Instead, the students’ eye for ethical conflicts – based on case studies, for instance – should be sharpened and they should be given a “tool” with which they might approach normative problems.



After a historical review, in his talk Between Dose and Discipline – Possibilities for the Integration of Ethical Reflection in Business Studies Degrees Professor Dr. Albert Löhr (IHI Zittau) stressed that it is no longer a question of “whether”, but rather “how” ethical aspects can be integrated into business studies degrees. The speaker called upon lecturers to make their individual approach transparent as there is a “plural” of ethics and a large number of concepts of reason. As a representative of discourse ethics himself, he examined levels, starting points and methods of ethics teaching. Corporate ethics should not be made into a “special thing”. The aim of curricular anchoring is to train a universal stance that should help shape the degree as a credible characteristic. Professor Löhr also called for an institutional anchoring in the form of professorships to be able to conduct one’s own research. The participants primarily discussed the limitations of its application in such a common discipline as business studies.


In his talk Companies and Social Responsibility, Professor Dr. Bolko von Oetinger (The Boston Consulting Group and member of the Board for contacts in practice at the VHB) examined the basic question as to how far companies may see themselves as part of society or as independent institutions. Besides a system crisis, the speaker also detected a crisis of confidence with regard to globally active concerns. The resulting costs of this mistrust constitute a significant but flexible cost factor. The management needs to realise that many global concerns have already become a political factor owing to their size. “The company remains an efficient organisation, but an organisation in and not beside or outside society.”


The speaker encouraged the managers of global concerns to fulfil their social responsibility. In their self-conception, the companies should see themselves as an active participant in civil society and react quicker strategically. Problems of trust need to be alleviated, global market leaders should set the standards and, if necessary, the methods of measuring corporate success should be reconsidered, the speaker recommended. Professor von Oetinger illustrated his speech with numerous examples from practice where companies have faced up to their social responsibility.


In his talk Corporate Ethics – Necessary for Practice, Research and Teaching, Prof. Dr. Dr. h.c. Hans Ulrich Küpper (University of Munich) examined the necessity of corporate ethics for practice, research and teaching. After outlining the evolution of business studies, the host of the Munich workshop explained controversial definitions of corporate ethics. He stressed the aspects sensitisation, career preparation and influence as functions of corporate ethics in degrees and teaching. Furthermore, he explained that the goal cannot be to raise a “good” economist. It is far more about the “provision of instruments” with the help of which the practitioner might solve ethical and social problems. As a prospect of corporate ethics, the speaker concluded his remarks with the hope of a greater acceptance and willingness for the discussion of ethical aspects.


... rege Diskussion.

All the talks were discussed intensively in the panel discussion and the breaks. The feedback reveals that, despite a few minor requests for amendments, the participants in the event were very happy with the workshop. Our special thanks to the speakers, who helped make it a success, and the organisers.

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