Amid the fallout from the global financial crisis, there have been calls for more attention to business ethics in curricula, following from a view that unethical behaviour was at the root of the current situation.
Writing in the Australian Financial Review, the Dean of the Australian School of Business, Professor Alec Cameron, argues that while business ethics is an important element of a business education, he is "sceptical" that the solution lies in further courses on business ethics.
"I believe that a more fruitful area of discussion is to ask whether the over-riding priority of a firm to provide the maximum return on shareholder funds, with consequent responsibilities for executives and directors, has justified a profit-at-any cost mindset that has led to some of the questionable practices and risky strategies resulting in the current malaise," Professor Cameron writes.
"If those involved had recognised a broader and longer-term suite of responsibilities to their customers, their employees and their communities, in addition to their shareholders, then different strategies may have been pursued.
"UNSW last year established the Centre for Social Impact in partnership with the University of Melbourne and Swinburne University of Technology, with generous support from the Federal Government and philanthropic interests. A key objective was to transfer sophisticated management practice from business schools, generally applied in the corporate sector, to the not-for-profit (NFP) sector.
"Based on current trends associated with the financial crisis, I expect us now to be asking not only what the NFP sector can learn from best practice in the corporate sector, but how our firms can learn from the leading not-for-profits in the balancing of multiple objectives and stakeholder responsibility."
Read the full opinion piece on the Australian School of Business website.
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