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15 September 2023

Good managers often make unethical decisions – and don’t even know it

This morning, our second-year students embark on their journey to learn how to demonstrate leadership in complexity with Judith Schrempf-Stirling’s class: Organizational Responsibility and Ethics.

Judith Schrempf-Stirling is Professor of Responsible Management at Geneva School of Economics and Management. She obtained her Ph.D. at HEC Lausanne under the supervision of Prof. Guido Palazzo in 2010. Prior to joining Geneva School of Economics and Management, Judith worked at the University of Richmond in the United State of America where she taught undergraduate and graduate classes such as Social, Ethical, and Legal Responsibilities of Business, Responsible Marketing, and Sustainability and Accountability of Business. Judith also gained industry experience when working in the Global Citizenship Department at Hewlett-Packard for over five years.

At the Geneva EMBA, Judith’s course starts from a clear diagnosis: “Good managers often make unethical decisions – and don’t even know it”. Managers are confronted with a complex and unprecedented mix of social, environmental, and market issues and demands from a variety of stakeholders. The majority of managers believe that they are unbiased and have good intentions to respond to crises, social and environmental issues and stakeholder demands in a responsible way. However, corporate scandals of corruption, fraud, pollution, human rights violations, and customer manipulation persist. The course addresses how corporations can manage rising stakeholder expectations and how managers can engage in responsible decision making and avoid ethical blindness.

The course is divided in two parts. In the first part, we discuss corporate social responsibility and explore various responsible management and compliance tools. The first part frames the theoretical and practical debate around CSR and provides an overview of its development. We also discuss the regulatory context that shapes and constrains responsible corporate conduct. In the second part, we discuss organizational ethics and examine the role of ethics and values in management and the unconscious biases that make responsible decision making challenging. This part focuses on employee privacy and whistleblowing as these are two issues that affect employees on a daily basis. The whole will lead our students to gain an in-depth understanding of the factors influencing the legal, ethical, and economic responsibilities of business, and critically reflect on the role of business in society, namely:

  • Identify key organizational stakeholders and their expectations
  • Analyze ethical challenges that arise in organizations
  • Develop thoughtful proposals/solutions in the context of organizational responsibility and ethics

In her reseach, Judith examines how corporations’ responsibility along their value chain has evolved during the last fifty years by examining and analyzing recent corporate responsibility trends. More specifically, she examines corporate responsibility demands upstreaming the corporate value chain towards and beyond suppliers, down streaming the corporate value chain towards the consumer, and corporate responsibility demands for historic injustices. In her research, she explores the ‘political turn’ of corporate responsibility. Her work has been published in international journals such as the Academy of Management Review, Business & Society, Business Horizons, and Journal of Business Ethics. You can have an insight of Judith’s contribution through her recent article on “Entrepreneurial Opportunities as Responsibility“.

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