Business Schools' Great Ethics Debate

Tomorrow's corporate leaders are learning business skills and social values in B-schools.


The school created opportunities for students to be exposed to values that they might not otherwise find in their classes. During orientation week, all 250 first-year students work with nonprofits in the community for a day. Today, some schools report greater student interest in nonprofit work. "You're seeing students with an investment banking background or tech background who want to hone their business skills but in a way that has social impacts," says Matthew Nash, managing director of the Center for the Advancement of Social Entrepreneurship at Fuqua School of Business at Duke University.

Some schools are investigating how to broaden ethical learning within the classroom. That is not an easy task. Fort says that it is rare for students from other disciplines to join business classes and provide outside perspectives, so he has found ways to introduce ethics in unexpected places. In the past three years, he has started producing videos for use in nonethics classes. The videos feature Fort talking about the ethical implications of what students are learning in the other subjects.

Teaching ethics in business is not about telling students that profits are bad, Fort argues. Instead, he tries to appeal to his students' desire to make money by stressing that an ethical reputation is often the most reliable tool for business success. As Fort puts it: "In the long term, ethics pays."