Business Ethics

The Center for Education on Social Responsibility (CESR) develops innovative courses and programs, including the SRE Certificate, which immerse students in business ethics issues. In addition, CESR has developed the Leeds’ Pedagogy for the Teaching of Business Ethics.

Outside of the classroom, CESR holds events and competitions, namely the annual CESR Business Ethics Case Competition. The competition challenges students to apply their values and skills learned in Leeds classes to difficult real-world cases. This year will mark the fourth annual Competition with the largest prize pool yet.

Two Approaches to Pedagogy in B-Schools as a Remedy

At the Leeds School of Business, CESR has reprised a time-tested pedagogy to prepare students for the potential impact on their behavior of authority, administrative structures, and situational social influence.

The predominant manner in which b-schools currently teach their students business ethics is thoroughly ineffective in this regard. The prevailing approach is one of ‘describe and prescribe’ (D&P). Ethics is taught like science or math and students are treated like empty vessels. In a purely theoretical exercise, the instructor breaks the subject matter down into the component parts of diverse ethical theories. Students are expected to digest the theories and then regurgitate them piecemeal in applying them to case studies in a purely external manner. As in science or math, most students quickly forget the formulas once they have completed an exam or written a term paper. The D&P method does not assist students in exercising moral reflection toward a meaningful life. In fact, the method relativizes ethics and thereby marginalize ethics in the lives of students.

Leeds employs a second approach to teaching ethics, an altogether different methodology. We can contrast the two approaches as ‘top-down’ versus ‘bottom up’. The D&P method is a purely theoretical exercise with instructors lecturing students on ethical theory. Rather than ‘top-down’, the Leeds’ pedagogy uses a ‘bottom up’ approach wherein instructors first challenge students to think about the goal or meaning of their lives as business leaders.

Case studies are not used merely to get students to describe a different set of outcomes by plugging in different variables to get different results; rather, case studies are used as a means of experiential learning. Students become actively involved in an experience that challenges them to reflect on their most fundamental commitments. In thinking about the kind of person or business leader they want to be, they develop the analytical skills necessary to reflect on the ethical values that undergird their conception. Rather than formulaic, the goals of Leeds’ pedagogy is very practical. It assists students in developing and exercising moral reflection for a purposeful life. In short, the Leeds’ pedagogy places ethics at the very center of students’ lives.


CESR Stories about Business Ethics

Kimbal Musk

Getting to the Core of Real Food with Kimbal Musk at the 7th Annual Conscious Capitalism Conference

May 8, 2017

Kimbal Musk, Co-founder of The Kitchen Students, faculty and community members made up the sold out crowd at the 7 th annual Conscious Capitalism Conference on food security. Hosted by the Center for Education on Social Responsibility (CESR), the event featured a variety of panels and talks, with Kimbal Musk,... Read more »
Lorna Christoff

A CESR Winner in Diversity and Inclusiveness

May 5, 2017

Lorna Christoff, one of the Center for Education on Social Responsibility’s (CESR) popular faculty members, has been recognized with the Faculty/Staff Impact Award. The honor is presented by the Office of Diversity Affairs (ODA) and the Multicultural Business Student Association (MBSA) at the Leeds School of Business to a staff... Read more »

CESR Project Inspires Student’s Career in Urban Farming

May 3, 2017

Last fall, Graham Hankin explored aquaponics for a sustainability paper in his Business Applications of Social Responsibility course, offered by the Center for Education for Social Responsibility (CESR) at the Leeds School of Business. With that, his interest was sparked and since then the junior Leeds student has embarked on... Read more »
Liz Stapp, Center for Education on Social Responsibility

CESR Faculty Member a Finalist for Teaching Excellence

April 17, 2017

The Center for Education on Social Responsibility (CESR) is proud to announce that CESR instructor Liz Stapp has been named one of three finalists for the 2017 Joseph L. Frascona Teaching Excellence Award. The award winner will be announced at the Leeds Recognition Ceremony at the Coors Event Center May... Read more »
Thumbnail BECC

Students Tackle the Palm Oil Industry to Win Ethics Competition

April 17, 2017

On March 17th, six student teams were challenged to apply their values and skills learned in Leeds classes to a real-world ethics case at CESR’s 5 th annual Business Ethic Case Competition. ANNA Consulting (Noah Green, Nathan Mpiana, Alexandra McPherson, Alex Schott) rose above the rest, placing first by successfully... Read more »
Conscious Capitalism Conference 2017

​Examining Food Security Issues from the Planet to Pearl Street

April 5, 2017

With 870 million people around the world without physical, social, or economic access to a sufficient supply of nutritious and safe food, establishing global food security is important to hundreds of millions of hungry people, to the sustainable economic growth of affected nations, and to the long-term economic prosperity of... Read more »
Dee Perry

Gratitude to Dee Perry

March 29, 2017

Last fall the Center for Education on Social Responsibility (CESR) said goodbye and thank you to an outstanding advisory board member who dedicated herself to the growth of CESR and its students. Dee Perry It’s inspiring to see how impactful Dee Perry’s tenure on CESR’s board has been over the... Read more »

The Promise of the Circular Economy: A special event

March 29, 2017

The Conference on World Affairs presents The Promise of the Circular Economy , a panel session co-sponsored by the Center for Education on Social Responsibility (CESR) at the Leeds School of Business and the Boulder Chamber. April 12, 2017 5:30-7:30pm in Koelbel S125, Leeds School of Business Followed by a... Read more »
Water bottles at CU Boulder

How reusable beats plastic at CU

March 27, 2017

As temperatures rise signaling the start of spring, students and faculty are beginning to swap out their thermoses for cooler alternatives. Instead of reaching for plastic bottled water at local convenience stores, the University of Colorado Boulder community is turning to more sustainable options. From Nalgenes covered in stickers to... Read more »
Mark Meaney

Mark Meaney to speak on ethics & compliance

March 6, 2017

Ethics & Compliance Monthly Brown Bag Series (for CU students, faculty and staff) March 27th: Monitoring Your Compliance Program Presentation Details The Office of the Chancellor at the University of Colorado Boulder hosts a ethics & compliance monthly brown bag series, which will feature a presentation by Dr. Mark Meaney... Read more »