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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. Students may also work on independent study projects, including international projects with NGOs in countries as diverse as Bolivia, Tanzania, and the U.K.

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 move forward in the 21st century, an era marked by unprecedented affluence and wide-reaching crises, the markets at the base of the global income pyramid have become a meeting place of global corporations and development advocates alike. Business leaders, with aims to do well and do good, seek opportunities in unmet demand, innovating to overcome challenges of access and serving new markets. Pulled by the promise of new markets in emerging economies and pushed by the demands of corporate responsibility, the relationship between profits and poverty alleviation in pursuit of mutual value creation is the focal point of investigation of this mini-course.

In keeping with the Ethics and Social Responsibility core requirement, this mini-course offers a course on ethics, situated in the practical challenge facing business leaders that aim to overcome barriers to access, in pursuit of new markets. The case studies that we read throughout the course serve as the context for a broader inquiry into questions of corporate responsibility and ethics. The cases feature the pursuit of profit, against a backdrop of disparity between have and have-nots, and allow us to consider the role of business leaders, and reflect on corporate responsibility, ethics, as well as risk.

This course aims to create an opportunity for students to hone their analytical skills around questions of ethics and social responsibility, and to practice their ethical voice. Core background readings in Philosophical Ethics are introduced at the beginning of the course and we use these ethical arguments and dialogues as a vital resource for understanding and navigating the value-laden debates that may frame markets. Cases are selected with the aim to highlight the socially and politically charged contexts that business leaders may encounter, including health care delivery, infrastructure, humanitarian relief, and environmental sustainability. Business models, innovated to overcome challenges of access, may test traditional assumptions about business-society-government relations, and spark debate over broader questions of risk and corporate responsibility.

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

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 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 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.

Professor Curt Welling D'71, T'77

Social Entrepreneurship (SESHP) seeks to inform students who are interested in understanding the theoretical and practical elements of Social Entrepreneurship, and in addition equip those who wish to explore the possibility of defining or starting a social enterprise.

Thorough of series of readings, cases, guests and student presentations the course will explore:

  • The history and evolution of social entrepreneurship.
  • The social, political and economic theoretical foundations.
  • The similarities to and distinctions from other models of social impact, and other methods of creating and allocating social impact capital.
  • The unique challenges of creating a social impact business model:
    Identifying and precisely defining a social problem that is sufficiently generalizable and understood such that a product based solution can be defined.

    – Identifying a product or service which simultaneously generates revenue and produces a solution to the clearly defined social problem.

    – Defining the metrics that will be used to measure and confirm the magnitude of the intended social impact.

    – Defining the value proposition for investors in this multi-objective model. This involves clearly defining the expected financial return as well as the “social impact” return on investment.

    – Identifying the sources of capital that is required to launch the venture and to sustain it through proof of concept, commercialization and profitability.
  • Various approaches to entrepreneurship will be explored which might be utilized to define and start such a social venture. In particular, the course will use the Social Lean Canvas methodology as a way of engaging students in the concrete evolution of a social venture from problem definition to business model.

Professor Kevin Lane Keller

As climate change becomes more urgent, consumers are becoming aware that the choices that they make impact our planet’s health. Critics argue that marketing is part of the problem by encouraging our overconsumption of resources. Marketing has a vital and unique role in creating a more sustainable society. Marketing can be force for good by communicating and educating people on the value of a different way. 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.”

Through this course, students will gain an understanding of sustainability on business from a marketing lens. This course aims to provide a broad range of tools and framework for understanding how businesses can interact with issues related to sustainability. The first module of this course will focus on the fundamentals of sustainability. We’ll review sustainability frameworks, learn how to use systems thinking to approach business sustainability, and utilize a stakeholder analysis approach for business solutions. Then in module two, we’ll focus on the role of business and marketing. We’ll analyze marketing strategies around sustainability and what sets the winners and losers apart. We’ll review how sustainable marketing differs from regular marketing and how sustainability can be a competitive differentiator. We’ll explore the opportunities and challenges with sustainable product design and measuring impact.

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