Durham University
Programme and Module Handbook

Postgraduate Programme and Module Handbook 2018-2019 (archived)

Module PHIL41615: BUSINESS ETHICS 2: Society and Sustainability

Department: Philosophy

PHIL41615: BUSINESS ETHICS 2: Society and Sustainability

Type Open Level 4 Credits 15 Availability Available in 2018/19 Module Cap


  • None


  • None

Excluded Combination of Modules

  • None


  • To introduce students to the key philosophical questions in Business Ethics
  • To provide students with the tools to understand the links between philosophical theory and the practice and theory of business
  • To examine topics, debates and concepts at the heart of the field and thereby promote an advanced critical understanding of a wide range of concerns and discussions in Business Ethics
  • To provide students with the knowledge and skills required to research and write about a specific topic under the guidance of members of staff
  • To introduce students to debates at the cutting edge of philosophical research in general and moral theory in particular and examine how they apply to cases in business


  • The content of this module will focus on the following theme: “Society and Sustainability: Well-Being and Risk Assessment”
  • The relation between suppliers and competitors (ethical sourcing and fair trade)
  • Social Entrepreneurship
  • The Role of Governments as Stakeholders
  • Risk Assessment and the Impact of Technology
  • Ethical decision making in areas of conflict
  • Business Ethics and Immigration Policies

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • Students will be able to:
  • Understand the main challenges facing the notions of ethical leadership and sustainability in a business context
  • Gain insight into the theories that may be able to shed light on and/or resolve some of these challenges
  • Apply ethical thinking and studies to real life cases and examples
  • Understand the background issues that shape the debate and influence current discussion in the field
  • Be able to draw parallels between different kinds of cases and examples by means of conceptual analysis and philosophical theory
  • Recognise the relevance of philosophical research to business theory and practice
Subject-specific Skills:
  • Students will be able to:
  • Identify key issues, questions and debates in business ethics
  • Draw analogies between these issues, questions and debates
  • Identify and make use of relevant literature
  • Identify a philosophical problem, formulate a philosophical position and employ critical skills to address the problem
  • Write an essay which answers a question in an appropriately focused manner, with a clear and concise discussion of the topic area and a structured argument
Key Skills:
  • Students will be able to:
  • Identify and locate research materials
  • Write in a clear and rigorous style
  • Manage their time efficiently
  • Pursue interdisciplinary research
  • Make a responsible decision about their chosen essay topic
  • Think clearly and independently in a variety of professional and commercial contexts

Modes of Teaching, Learning and Assessment and how these contribute to the learning outcomes of the module

  • Most of the teaching will take the form of seminars, which will consist of a 1 hour lecture followed by a 1 hour discussion. In the seminars, we will address questions that are central to the relevant field and apply ethical thinking to real life cases in business. Students will have the opportunity to ask questions and debate the topics outlined in the lecture, and will be encouraged to develop their own opinions and defend their own points of view with the help of philosophical concepts and distinctions. They will be guided through the material and have a chance to develop both their analytic and argumentative skills.
  • The tutorials will enable smaller groups of students to target a specific research area (based on the essay topic they have chosen) and participate in in-depth discussions of this particular topic. They will have a chance to examine the wider ramifications of their research area and reflect on the practical relevance within commercial and practical contexts. These tutorials will also enable students to work on their essay-writing techniques, receiving individual guidance where appropriate.
  • Towards the end of the module the students will attend a workshop focusing on specific applications of the theories they have studied. During this workshop students will present a team-based case study. They will defend their arguments by responding to questions. This will help students to develop their skills for collaborative ethical decision making. Students will also have the opportunity to discuss their arguments with professionals who will be invited at the workshop.
  • This module will be open to MA students from other departments

Teaching Methods and Learning Hours

Activity Number Frequency Duration Total/Hours
Seminars 6 2-weekly 2 hours 12 hours
Tutorials 2 As required 1 hour 2 hours
Workshop 1 Once 3 hours 3 hours
Preparation and Reading 133 hours
Total 150 hours

Summative Assessment

Component: Summative Essay Component Weighting: 100%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Essay 3,000 words 100%

Formative Assessment:

One formative essay of 1,500 words

Attendance at all activities marked with this symbol will be monitored. Students who fail to attend these activities, or to complete the summative or formative assessment specified above, will be subject to the procedures defined in the University's General Regulation V, and may be required to leave the University