Learning What It Really Costs: Teaching Business Ethics with Life-Cycle Case Studies

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DesJardins, Joseph R.; Diedrich, Ernest
Economics Faculty Publications; active learning; business ethics; case studies; life-cycle cases; sustainability; sustainable business; Arts and Humanities; Business; Business Law, Public Responsibility, and Ethics; Philosophy
article description
Sustainability informs the framework for a seminar that we teach for junior and senior undergraduates entitled "The Ethics and Economics of Sustainable Societies." One of the class requirements has each student research and write a life-cycle case study, an exercise in which they trace the full, or partial, life-cycle of some product with which they are familiar. Students are expected to examine the economic, ethical, and ecological implications along each step in the life-cycle of the product. We believe that life-cycle cases in general are very helpful in revealing the full economic, ethical, and ecological consequences of product development, marketing, use, and disposal. We also believe that asking students to research the product themselves provides additional pedagogical benefits. After a brief review of the philosophical case for our alternative view of corporate social responsibility, we will describe the life-cycle case method, offer several examples from our own classes, and make the case for the pedagogical benefits of this approach.