Ethics and Social Responsibility Requirement

Effective leaders must understand how the success of their organizations is intertwined with broader ethical and social issues. And they must recognize that sustainable economic growth is not possible without considering the needs and demands of broader society.

Tuck requires each student to take at least one minicourse (1.5 credits) that explores the complex ethical and social challenges of business. 

Electives that satisfy the requirement include, but aren't limited to, these courses:

Professor Anant Sundaram

Climate change and its impacts raise momentous concerns. Hundreds of companies worldwide are aggressively getting in front of it, since they are the constituency with the strongest links to climate change: companies are the major source of greenhouse gas emissions and equally, by deploying R&D, financial resources, technology, and talent, they are the ones developing the solutions to address the problem. There is an emerging, multi-trillion dollar ‘climate economy’ that will mitigate and help us adapt to climate change. The main questions we will ask and address in ‘Business and Climate Change’ are: (1) What is climate change, and why should you as an MBA, and the company you work for, care? (2) What does the climate economy mean for your career, your firm, your industry? (3) How do companies measure and manage emissions? (4) What are the tools and frameworks to understand regulatory responses (e.g., a carbon tax or cap-and-trade), and to assess how a company’s business model is exposed to climate change? (5) What do you need to know about the global policy-making process and how it will impact your firm?

This course meets the Ethics & Social Responsibility (ESR) requirement.

Professor Susan M. Hanson

As we navigate the complexities of the 21st century, characterized by both unprecedented affluence and far-reaching crises, markets are a dynamic intersection where social mission and profit incentives may converge. Business leaders, with aims to overcome the challenges of access to serve un-tapped markets, may find themselves sharing ground with development advocates, social entrepreneurs, and social activists who seek to harness the power of markets to spur progress.

Driven by the promise of new markets and the imperatives of corporate responsibility, this mini-course explores the relationship between profit generation and poverty alleviation, with an eye to ethical challenges and social risk.

Aligned with the ESR (Ethics and Social Responsibility) requirement, this mini-course asks students to use ethical decision making tools, to examine the challenges that may emerge for business leaders in their efforts to overcome barriers to essential resources such as healthcare, infrastructure services, basic nutrition, and environmental sustainability.

This course is designed to provide students with opportunities to refine their analytical skills on questions of ethics and corporate responsibility, and to practice their ethical voice. We begin the course by establishing a foundational understanding of Philosophical Ethics through core background readings, which serve as an indispensable resource throughout the course to understand and navigate the value-laden stakeholder debates that frame market competition. Case readings focus on the central challenge of access, and are drawn from both emerging market as well as mature industrial country contexts.

Throughout the course, we explore the possibilities and limits of using markets to achieve dual aims of greater access and higher profits. Selected cases position the pursuit of profit in the context of stark disparities between haves and have-nots, prompting inquiries into corporate accountability, ethical considerations, and associated risks. An enduring theme throughout the course is the potential disruption of conventional assumptions regarding the roles and interplay of business, society, and government.

Professor Curt Welling D'71, T'77

Governments and societies around the world are increasingly focused on intractable social issues: problems of poverty, health, education, the environment and social justice. There is an accelerating demand for sustainability. In this context, expectations for business accountability are rising, and the social contract between business and government is under scrutiny and in some cases under attack in markets and countries around the world. The very nature and purpose of “capitalism” are being questioned. At the same time, new technologies and new models of collaboration between business, government and civil society are emerging. And new perspectives about investing and raising “social purpose capital” are being tested. Business “stakeholders”—communities, employees, governments and “civil society”—are increasingly demanding a role in corporate governance and accountability. And now we are in the Age of Covid 19: the immediate and longer term realities of the pandemic will challenge all of our assumptions, expectations and models about the “social contract".

Through a series of readings, cases and speakers, this introductory minicourse is designed to give students an integrated perspective on the unique roles which government and business play in society, the sources of authority for, and limits to, those responsibilities, and the ways in which the traditional roles and organizational models are being challenged, questioned and changed.

The course will also explore the role that capital markets play in this context: sustainability is impossible without mobilizing capital. The course will examine markets from a number of perspectives: as facilitator of social policy, as allocator of capital and instrument of organizational accountability, as manifestations of social priorities and as mechanisms for reflecting moral and ethical priorities.

This course meets the Ethics & Social Responsibility (ESR) requirement.

Professor Paul A. Argenti

This minicourse starts with the premise that corporate social responsibility is good for business and focuses on how leaders can balance the needs of their organizations with responsibilities to key constituencies. Through cases focusing on the social, reputational, and environmental consequences of corporate activities, students will learn how to make difficult choices, promote responsible behavior within their organizations, and understand the role personal values play in developing effective leadership skills.

This course meets the Ethics and Social Responsibility (ESR) requirement.

Professor Julia Meilin

To have a competitive advantage in business, organizations need to leverage the full talents of an increasingly diverse population. Yet, many managers lack the analytical skills to identify whether their business practices create disparities in opportunity and/or outcomes for their workers. In this seminar, students will learn different ways to use data to identify and measure inequity in organizations that affect diversity goals, broadly defined, including but not limited to gender, race, social class, age, veteran status, parental status, and sexual orientation. Students will also learn methodological strategies for designing and testing solutions (e.g., longitudinal interventions, randomized field experiments) in real-world contexts (e.g., investment banking, high-tech, biotech, law firms). Course materials will include academic articles from management, sociology, social psychology, and economics to learn the analytical rigor required to make data-driven managerial decisions. The papers we read will leverage data to develop theory and offer empirical evidence to address questions such as:

  • How can managers use data to identify and measure social factors that lead to inequity in hiring, compensation, and performance evaluations?
  • How does work-family conflict negatively affect both men and women employees?
  • How can managers design and test interventions that reduce bias and drive positive organizational change for all employees?
  • How can employers assess if certain groups of workers are more (dis)advantaged by remote work? What types of interventions help remote workers maintain and develop “soft skills”?
  • In what ways might artificial intelligence be used to overcome hiring biases, rather than promote them?

By the end of this course, students will have learned analytical techniques to (a) identify inequity using data from various contexts (e.g., hiring evaluations, employee performance reviews, MBA starting salaries); (b) infer plausible causes of such inequities; and (c) design and test interventions to reduce observed inequities. Students will engage in active learning by co-leading class discussions of the papers each week and completing both a mid-term and final project that involve using real-world data to perform a detailed analysis of inequity.

Professor Aine Donovan

This mini-course will involve students in an exploration of the ethical challenges and opportunities in the business world today. Integrity is the foundation of any successful business, and how that notion is fostered and cultivated will be highlighted throughout the course. Faculty members from diverse disciplines will lead discussions of ethical issues in cases involving their particular areas of expertise.

Ethics does not provide black and white answers to the complex issues of the business world. Rather, it provides a framework for decision-making that will guide business leaders in their professional roles. The questions we will address are controversial. Often, thoughtful people of goodwill can have strongly held opposing views on the issues. We will have the opportunity to review the positions of representative advocates of one side or the other, but, ultimately, you are expected to engage the issue and form your own opinions. The learning in this course will come from your willingness to internalize the issues and from the effort you put into formulating your own views so that you can express them clearly and convincingly in class discussion.

This course meets the Ethics & Social Responsibility (ESR) requirement.

Impact Investing: Capital for Social Impact (IICSI)
Professor Curt Welling D'71, T'77

The concepts of “impact investing” and “social impact capital” have exploded on the marketplace in recent years. The last decade has seen the dramatic acceleration of attempts to find new ways to harness capital and capitalism in the search for solutions to intractable social problems and concerns about corporate accountability. New organizational paradigms and new investment perspectives have emerged, and the volume of capital seeking social impact has grown exponentially.

A critical component of this dynamic has been the exploration of new approaches to creating, allocating and evaluating investment capital. Whether in new approaches to philanthropy (Venture Philanthropy), corporate philanthropy (Corporate Cause Marketing), venture capital (Social Entrepreneurship), shared-value capital (double bottom line investing), private and public market values-based investing (Impact Investing and public market ESG investing)--virtually every major aggregator of investment capital—Black Rock, Vanguard, Bain Capital, Goldman Sachs, etc) has allocated significant resources to developing investment products or financing approaches which respond to these trends.

Through a series of readings, lectures, and speakers this course will examine the sources, markets, costs, risk and return tradeoffs, and accountability mechanisms in the emerging markets for Social Impact Capital.

This course meets the Ethics & Social Responsibility (ESR) requirement.

Professor Sonya Mishra

Using insights from cutting-edge behavioral and psychological research, this course provides students with skills to identify and address issues related to diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) within organizations. Students will develop an understanding of the barriers to DEI, such as systems of inequality, denial of privilege, biases that hinder support for DEI, and the many biases facing marginalized groups. Through lectures, in-class exercises, and case discussions, students will also learn about how organizational characteristics (e.g., power hierarchies, social networks, work culture) impact the efficacy of DEI interventions. Finally, students will learn how to improve organizational DEI at the individual level (e.g., addressing bias, allyship, empathetic leadership, psychological safety) and at the organizational level (e.g., hiring practices and workplace policies that measurably improve DEI). By the end of this course, students will be adept at identifying and addressing sources of inequity, having difficult conversations, mitigating problems associated with stereotypes, and managing diverse, equitable, and inclusive environments.

This course meets the Ethics & Social Responsibility (ESR) requirement.

Professor Bob Searle T'96

Twenty years ago, few people except social scientists evaluating the results of large-scale development programs talked about social impact. Google the term now, and millions of hits pop up—an explosion of interest that is both promising and problematic.

On the one hand, its currency attests to the growing number of organizations and individuals who recognize—and want to help remedy—the enormous social, economic, and environmental problems facing our planet. On the other hand, it’s hard to know what the term actually means other than doing something good for society.

If social impact were simply a buzzword this sort of broad generalization wouldn’t matter. But social impact is a real phenomenon. And while there are undoubtedly people who’ve seized on the term simply because it’s the new-new thing, most of those who are talking about it do so with genuinely good intentions. The problem, in the words of inventor Thomas A. Edison, is that “a good intention, with a bad approach, often leads to poor results.”

MSI’s overarching goal is to help you appreciate what it takes to turn good intentions into good results for society. To this end, the class will require you to consider a number of fundamental questions, including:

  • What is social impact?
  • Who defines it?
  • What role do various sectors – private, public, nonprofit – play in delivering social impact?
  • What are the challenges and tradeoffs of managing for it?
  • How can it be measured and assessed?
  • What behaviors promote impact, and which subvert it?
  • What are the implications for how I/my organization operate in the world?

These questions are particularly pointed for the charitable nonprofits, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), and philanthropic foundations that constitute the nonprofit (or social) sector. Why? Because these are the only organizations that exist solely for the purpose of bettering society. If they are unable to deliver on the statement of purpose (or mission) that is their reason for being, it doesn’t matter how big, or well-known, or well-intentioned they are: they have failed. So, using them as a primary lens for discussing these questions allows us to explore the challenges of managing for social impact in their most demanding form.

That said, every organization has a social impact (as does every individual), even if its decision makers choose not to acknowledge that, let alone manage for it. This is why we will also use our time together to consider where questions of social impact might appear in the context of business decisions or government policies, and what some of the key trade-offs in these contexts might involve. You will also have time and space to develop your own perspective on social impact and to reflect on how it might affect your decisions and choices going forward. Guests who have wrestled with these issues themselves will share their experiences and lessons learned, as will your professor.

As MBAs. your skills will be in high demand. MSI will be useful whether you decide to apply them professionally or privately. This course will be particularly relevant if you are currently serving on the board of a nonprofit or NGO or plan on joining one hereafter.

This course meets the Ethics & Social Responsibility (ESR) requirement.

Joshua S. Lewis

How did President Harry Truman decide to use atomic weapons in 1945?  How did Katherine Graham, Publisher of the Washington Post, consider the ethical dilemmas and business risks involved in publishing the Pentagon Papers and pursuing Watergate?  Is Machiavelli’s treatise The Prince a pragmatic handbook every leader should read or a rationalization of thuggery?

Leaders regularly confront dilemmas with moral dimensions.  They can arise urgently and unexpectedly, are generally complex, and can be career defining.  This course in applied ethics is both abstract, in that it explores complex moral questions and the philosophical frameworks used to address them, and intensely practical, in that it deals with the types of moral challenges that business leaders face and introduces the tools required to lead an organization through them.  Its ultimate objective is to enable students to better navigate the business world, and life as it is actually lived. 

Course content includes renowned fiction, autobiography, moral philosophy, documentary film, and journalistic and historical narrative, with a diverse set of protagonists spanning centuries, cultures, and continents.

Professor Lewis notes:  “Over a 30+ year career in venture capital and private equity I encountered any number of ethical dilemmas, several complex and relatively consequential.  And although my training in moral philosophy was useful in equipping me with skills in abstract reasoning, I wish I’d taken a course in applied ethics like this one.  Success in business requires a command of hard skills – strategy, finance, management, operations.  That said, in retrospect, it was the difficult moral calls that I remember most clearly – and, regardless of how well or poorly I now believe I prosecuted those decisions, they were crucial turning points in my evolution as a professional.” 

Professor Mark R. DesJardine

Despite a growing desire to pursue prosocial goals and affect positive change in the world, many entrepreneurs have little understanding of how to develop new ventures that can simultaneously generate positive financial and social returns. Without the ability to measure, manage, and scale social impact, ventures that start out with prosocial aims will often diverge from their roots, with founders drifting away from social impact aims or pursuing goals that fail to deliver on their intended impacts.

This course takes a hands-on approach to addressing these issues. Students will work in teams to identify an opportunity and develop a plan for a new venture that can generate positive financial and social returns. Emphasis is placed on understanding the unique challenges of creating social impact business models and defining the value proposition of these models for investors and other stakeholders.

Students will leave the class with a deeper appreciation of the potential for business to be a force for good in the world. The class will be of value to students who are interested in creating socially impactful businesses, as well as to those who want to work in the business ecosystem that supports such ventures, including impact investing and consulting.

Professor Liana L. Frey

To use Philip Kotler’s definition, “sustainable marketing holds that an organization should meet the needs of its present consumers without compromising the ability of future generations to fulfill their own needs.” To do this well, marketers need to expand their traditional scope and leverage new tools and frameworks. There has been a shift in consumer expectations around transparency and responsibility of a company’s environmental impact. Consumers are seeking out and buying more sustainable products. Consumers expectations are changing and they now expect companies to not only be responsible for their environmental impact while making a product, but also in the sourcing, use, and disposal. Many companies have struggled to communicate on these topics which has led to marketing that is often inadvertently misleading. Marketers want to leverage this interest in sustainability, but they struggle with what, where, when to communicate during the customer journey.

Most organizations start their sustainability journey by exploring the topic of purpose and goals, which is where the course will begin. The class will learn how sustainable marketing differs from regular marketing and how to adapt the 3C’s and 4P’s for sustainability. Then, the class will review how to leverage systems thinking and stakeholder engagement to create programs with maximum impact. The class will also explore the opportunities and challenges with sustainable product design and marketing. Through research, cases, and real-world examples, students will learn sustainable marketing strategies and what sets the winners and losers apart.

This course meets the Ethics & Social Responsibility (ESR) requirement.

Professor Stacy Blake-Beard

Over the past decades, women have steadily moved into higher levels of management and leadership where they now occupy key positions in the public and private sectors and have established themselves as a force in most workplaces. However, there are still challenges that they are facing. The work place experiences of women are informed by societal expectations that are deeply ingrained in how we show up – gender norms. In this course, we will focus on how gender norms have impacted women’s careers, as well as the ways that gender norms affect work, leadership, and professional success in general. We will delve into issues that are commonly included in discussions on women, gender, and leadership (i.e. work-life balance, networking, and bias). We will expand to more recent dimensions of the new workplace (i.e. the influence of technology, the different career experiences of women across the globe). Through the course, we will have a forum to identify, at interpersonal and organizational levels, the challenges that women have faced—and the strategies they have utilized—on their career path. We will also diagnose gender and power dynamics in the workplace and evaluate alterative reactions/responses to enhance individual and group effectiveness. With each of the topics, you will be encouraged to think of your role as leaders and how you can use those competencies to create and/or contribute to workplaces that are sensitive to the importance of gender equity.