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The Ethics of the Masterpiece Cake Shop Decision

Photo of cakes in a display case

On June 4, The Supreme Court announced its 7-2 ruling in favor of a baker who refused to bake a cake for the wedding of a same-sex couple.  The public response was intense on both sides. People took to the streets and to social media to express their attitudes about the decision.  One common misconception in the popular commentary on this topic appears to be that the Court ruled that places of business have the right to discriminate against patrons for religious reasons.  The Court’s decision was actually much narrower. It did not create a religious exemption from anti-discrimination laws.

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The 2018 Davos Forum: Plutocratic Gathering or Genuine Discussion?

An image of Davos, Switzerland in the winter.

Donald Trump, Angela Merkel, Narendra Modi, and many other world leaders, CEOs, celebrities, and influencers will gather this week in a beautiful ski resort in Davos, Switzerland to attend the 2018 World Economic Forum. This gathering started in 1971 as a small conference attempting to teach underperforming European companies American management techniques. Since then, the Davos Forum has established itself as the most important world gathering where the world economy is tested, evaluated, and planned.

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Democratic Equality and Free Speech in the Workplace

A close-up photo of the google logo on a building

Numerous news outlets have by now reported on the contentious memo published by former Google employee, James Damore, in which he criticized his former employer’s efforts to increase diversity in their workforce. The memo, entitled “Google’s Ideological Echo Chamber: How bias clouds our thinking about diversity and inclusion,” claims that Google’s diversity efforts reflect a left-leaning political bias that has repressed open and critical discussion on the fairness and effectiveness of these efforts. Moreover, the memo surmises that the unequal representation of men and women in the tech business is due to natural differences in the distribution of personality traits between men and women, rather than sexism.

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Corporate Social Responsibility Depends on Ethical CEOs

Corporate social responsibility (CSR), once seen as a sure indicator of a company’s intentions, is increasingly becoming a trend for all companies to adopt.  More and more, companies engage in CSR for their own benefit, and stakeholders are left unsure which companies participate for the right reasons. Corporate social responsibility is the branch of business that handles how a company upholds ethical standards, including sustainable sourcing, production, and corporate transparency, sometimes “going beyond” expectations to engage in community building projects. Research on the effectiveness of CSR has almost solely relied on signaling theory, which proposes that companies send positive signals to stakeholders (consumers, employees, investors, and communities) when they engage in CSR.

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The Dangers of Ethical Fading in the Workplace

Suppose your boss asks you to fudge certain numbers on a business report on the same week the company is conducting layoffs. Is this an ethical dilemma, a financial dilemma, or seeing as it will affect your family, a social dilemma? Likely, all three are true, and more layers exist beneath the surface. Are you in debt from taking a luxurious vacation? Do you have children in college? Are you hoping to get a promotion soon? Research shows that navigating through these many layers makes it increasingly difficult to see the ethical dilemma. This describes “ethical fading,” the process by which individuals are unable to see the ethical dimensions of a situation due to overriding factors.

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Does Business Ethics Depend on Economic Growth?

The study of business ethics has faced obstacles since its introduction to mainstream thought in the 1970’s and 80’s, finding no place in higher education and facing opposition from the core tenets of capitalism itself. According to Amitai Etzioni, a professor who taught ethics at Harvard Business School from 1987 to 1989, ethics was deemed incompatible with business. In an interview with Pacific Standard, Etzioni said financial analysts, economists, and marketers alike insisted that ethics was incompatible with profit: “We teach people how to put small toys into large boxes so they seem bigger. We put hot colors onto boxes to produce impulsive buying. If you want us to teach ethical behavior, we’re out of business.”

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They’re Baaack: Volkswagen and Environmental Responsibility

It seemed as though the world had seen the end of Volkswagen after a massive scandal was uncovered by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) back in September 2015. One of VW’s major marketing campaigns in the United States was flaunting their diesel cars’ low emissions. It turns out, in fact, that they had been cheating on emissions tests for years by installing software in their cars to detect when an emissions test was being run. At least 482,000 cars were discovered with this “defeat device” in the United States, and the German car maker admitted to producing 11 million cars worldwide with this device as well. The crisis has even been termed “Dieselgate” by some. With society’s trend towards environmental consciousness, many were unsure how VW would recover from this.

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What the United Incident Says About the Airline Industry

A video of a man being dragged off an overbooked United Airlines flight appeared on social media last weekend, sparking outrage across the country and even the world. In the video, a man is shown being forcibly removed from the aircraft after being randomly selected to give up his seat for United Airlines crew members. Although United has since changed their policies, the fact that the incident happened at all raises concerns about airline procedures. In an industry that serves thousands of people per day, the context of the incident remains important to understand.

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A Nation-Sized Conflict of Interest

The election of Donald Trump is in many ways unprecedented, and among the most puzzling effects might be how the president-elect will have to deal with his financial and legal obligations. The New York Times predicts that “a theme of Mr. Trump’s presidency is likely to be the clash of his duties running the country with the remnants of his decades as a hard-charging businessman.” Though relatively little legal precedent exists for the scale of Trump’s financial dealings, some things are established: the Trump family can continue to run their businesses, but Trump will not be immune to any court proceedings against him.

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In the Hands of the Few: The AT&T – Time Warner Merger

On October 22nd, telecommunication company AT&T and media conglomerate Time Warner, parent company of major networks like CNN and HBO, announced that they were merging. AT&T acquired Time Warner in an 85.4 billion dollar deal. Deals such as these may well be the wave of the future.  Companies like Time Warner produce the content that viewers watch, and AT&T distributes it. The marriage of the two companies allows production and distribution to take place in innovative new ways.  As the trend toward streaming entertainment continues, AT&T can find new ways to provide customers with convenient options to access Time Warner’s content.  The deal is expected to close sometime near the end of 2017.

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Ethical Tipping

It’s a well-known fact that servers make below minimum wage, with the assumption being that the difference will be made up for in tips from their tables. However, if one server happens to have a slow or lower-paying section one night, he or she can end up assisting others, yet never see any return for the help. This begs the question: is there a fairer and more ethical way to tip than simply keeping what your tables give you?

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The Fashion Industry’s New Target Market

Italian fashion company Dolce & Gabbana recently released a new line of clothing containing hijabs and abayas. People around the world who follow the fashion industry were excited about the new line, which appears to be championing inclusiveness. Muslim women have been buying high-end fashion for years – most of which either stays in closets, or is only worn under abayas – and the brand’s new line appears to be in response to the general lack of fashionable options for Muslim women that can be worn out. Other brands, such as DKNY and Tommy Hilfiger, have also expanded their collections to include pieces that appeal to the female Muslim market. The Muslim market is lucrative, as many women from oil-rich countries shop for expensive, high-end clothing, primarily shoes and handbags. This line is supposed to give more options for expression beyond shoes and bags. Forbes said that Dolce & Gabbana’s move was their “smartest move in years” from a business perspective. Numerous lines have come to set up stores in Dubai, which even hosted its first fashion week this year. Since the sociopolitical culture is currently dangerous for women, Dolce & Gabbana’s new release was considered a move toward demonstrating the potential for harmony between Muslim and Western societies.

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Spas and Pilgrims in Assisi

https://www.flickr.com/photos/roberto_ferrari/320443243/in/photolist-ujmBv-4MUAY-7uBWXr-fcYVhP-fVN2tW-hc6pYv-6WUyHT-4MUv8-qzjgF-qx81D-qA84u-acD5VT-a1z4R6-a1BYWy-qzjgM-7pfZvh-qznpw-fVRqBF-qx81N-hc6B4g-qzkea-7rnFGh-88Mf41-9C7kE7-5CzYW5-kXzLZ-qdWtzp-hc5jkw-hc6sYi-a48bdu-qzihu-4QrxaC-eQPNZ-qzjMB-87ADe4-qzihD-qzjMH-qzoiv-qx4MG-qznpv-qzjMy-qzkef-beMwwB-a1z5PX-88ecGS-6WUtTr-88J1fX-88J3gt-75PG8y-7rk6RR

Known for his simplicity and acceptance, Saint Francis is often considered one of the most popular saints in the Catholic Church. The current pope even chose his papal name based off of the saint. Because Saint Francis is a favorite among Catholics, pilgrims have been flocking to his hometown, Assisi, Italy for centuries. Catholic visitors from around the world travel to Assisi to walk in the saint’s footsteps and to soak in the natural beauty of Mount Subasio, as well as the surrounding forest. Continue reading “Spas and Pilgrims in Assisi”

Politicizing a Tragedy, 30 Years after Bhopal

One would certainly hope that, as far as environmental regulation goes, we are better off than we were fifty years ago. We would hope that novels like Rachel Carson’s ground-shifting Silent Spring, a work chronicling the dangers of the U.S. chemical industry, have made enough of an effect to prevent the author’s dystopian predictions from becoming a reality.

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