Course Unit Page

Academic Year 2018/2019

Learning outcomes

The course reviews, in a critical way, the three major steps concerning the entry of ethical discourse into the economics of the firm. With the advent of the modern corporation, the shareholder value principle gets the centre of the stage: the responsible firm is the one that succeeds in maximizing the value for shareholders within the bonds fixed by law. The second step, strating at the end of the 1960s, sees the affirmation of business ethics: the responsible firm is the one that aims at harmonizing the interests of the various classes of shareholders. This is the "good business is good ethics" principle. Finally, at the end of the XXth century a major change occurs: the corporate civil responsibility according to which "good ethics is good business". This is the content of the new business ethics.

Course contents

1. What is business ethics? Is business ethics relevant to the management of the organization? Organizational rationality and internal conflicts: the relevance of ethics.

2. The ethical code as the constitution of the organization. Why respecting the ethical code of the organization. The implementation of ethical codes: intrinsic motivations, reputation, control. The problem of strategic coordination in complex organizations.

3. The firm in transition. The firm as a commodity and the firm as a community. The firm in a post-tayloristic epoch. From management to leadership.

4. The responsible firm as a moral agent. Corporate social responsibility: the stakeholder theory. The shareholder's value myth. The ethical anchorage of CSR: utilitarianism, deontologism, virtue ethics.

5. Economic impact and ethical challenges of the 4th Industrial Revolution. The decoupling between capitalism and democracy. Virtue ethics as key resource in the business world.

6. The corporate civil responsibility. A new view of business reality. B-corp and creation of shared value. New finance and ethical behaviour.


R. Baldwin, La grande convergenza, Il Mulino, Bologna, 2018

D. Baron, "A Positive Theory of Moral Management", Journal of Economics and Management Strategy, 2009, 18.

P. Bianchi, 4.0. La nuova rivoluzione industriale, Bologna, Il Mulino, 2018

G. Brenkert, T. Beauchamp, The Oxford Handbook of Business Ethics, OUP, 2010

L. Bruni, S. Zamagni, L'economia civile, Bologna, Il Mulino, 2016

A. Fabris (a cura di), Etiche applicate, Roma, Carocci, 2018

B.M.R. Ferrarese, Promesse mancate, Bologna, Il Mulino, 2018

M. O'Hara, Something for Nothing, Norton Co., New York, 2016

M. Porter, M. Kramer, "Creating Shared Value", Harvard Business Review, 2011

L. Sacconi (a cura di), La responsabilità sociale d'impresa, Roma, ABI, 2005

A. Sen, "Does Business Ethics Make Economic Sense?", Business Ethics Quarterly, 1993, 3

S. Zamagni, Impresa responsabile e mercato civile Bologna, Il Mulino, Bologna, 2013

Teaching methods

Lectures and in class discussions

Assessment methods

Exam consists in the preparation of a paper of 8000-8500 words the topic of which is freely selected by the student and which must be sent electronically to the email address of the teacher.

Office hours

See the website of Stefano Zamagni