1,000-1,250 words,  not counting notes or references.

Submit the essay as a Word-type file, or in PDF form, double-spaced in 12-point font, at Brightspace under “Assignments”. Create a separate page with the title, your name, student number, e-mail address, and course: PHI2397 Business Ethics.

Research: in addition to the standard reading for the course, essays must draw on at least two articles, book chapters, or the equivalent (e.g., portions of a larger work). Internet sources are acceptable if authoritative, but exercise care: Avoid (for this purpose) Wikipedia, sites offering notes for students,  etc. 

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Citing Sources:  It is important to know and follow rules for avoiding plagiarism: See:


Any major citation style (MLA, Chicago, APA, etc.) is acceptable. You can use footnotes, or endnotes, or parentheses in the body of the essay and then a list of references at the end.


Following are suggested topics; other topics are possible if approval is obtained.

See also guidelines below after the suggested topics.

Essays may focus mainly on a general issue or on specific cases, but some attention to both is necessary – that is, on the one hand, ideas and principles and, on the other, some facts and examples. Whatever the orientation, the object is to present an analysis and come to a conclusion regarding a question of ethics.

Some of the topics below may suggest a certain stance on an issue, but that is just a way of focusing the matter, and you are free to defend a contrary stance, or a mixed one, provided you make your position clear and support it with reasons (facts, principles, etc.).

Other topics than those here listed are possible; please consult the professor for approval.

Issue-oriented topics:

1. In matters of product safety, there has been a shift in law and social attitudes away from the traditional view about where the chief responsibility should rest, namely with consumers, a view expressed by “Caveat emptor”/”Buyer beware”. But there is nothing wrong with expecting that people be informed buyers and responsible for their choices. So, shouldn’t “Caveat emptor” be restored as the main principle in these matters? Discuss.    

2. Much of the extreme economic trouble and general recession that began in 2007/2008 was the result of exceptionally risky practices or unethical behaviour in the financial sector and/or by mortgage lenders. Explain some of these and whether specific regulations or standards for ethical behaviour were lacking and needed to avoid these problems. You may, alternatively, take the position that further regulations or ethics are an obstacle to a successful business.          

3. Environmentalists demand that we be realistic about the seriousness of pollution and adopt policies to limit it, such as significant restrictions on carbon emissions. But critics claim that the environmentalists are mistaken or unrealistic because people want the very products, jobs, and standard of living that these policies would endanger or undermine. So, which side is (more) realistic or (more) correct?

4. Multinationals: What are some main ways in which a multinational corporation is likely to benefit its host country and/or some main ways in which it is likely to harm it? What policies exist or should be adopted to maximize the benefits and minimize the harms?

5. Free trade has often been regarded as efficient and fair for all countries concerned. But the general idea or specific agreements to promote it, such as the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement/USMCA, are often viewed as against a country’s economic interests or unfair. Discuss and illustrate some essentials in these opposing views and argue for one  view or the other – or for some clear compromise if that is possible.

Case oriented topics:

1. Major financial institutions, manufacturing corporations, and other businesses often receive millions or even billions in financial help from governments, as bailouts or special loans. But why should taxpayers come to the aid of companies in a free-enterprise system? Discuss, concentrating on some specific company or companies, or industry.

2. Issues about the roles of management and boards of directors and their relation to each other are recurring concerns. Discuss what should be the proper roles and their relation, including any significant changes you think are needed in what is currently required. Focus and apply this with reference to some business(es) where there have been special problems in these matters.     

3. In Canada, issues about pipelines have been prominent in recent years. Present the main concerns pro and con these and apply this to the analysis of at least one major pipeline in question, spelling out the main facts of the situation and assessing overall which side in the controversy is the more persuasive one.

4. Case studies in business ethics are typically about ethical or even legal wrongdoing, and seldom about the opposite: about how specific innovative ethical practices or principled stances have been the basis for business success, and can be, or even have been, a model for other companies. Present any such case, exploring and evaluating the ethical challenge(s) or conflict(s) involved.  

Note: For any case-oriented topic, avoid, as the main example, cases that have been quite fully treated in class or in the required readings, e.g., Enron, Wal-Mart, WorldCom, Sackler/Opioid, Bhopal, DeepWater Horizon, etc.

Guidelines for Essay

The purpose of the paper is to present an analysis in which you seek to defend a thesis, a position. A significant portion of the paper will have to be devoted to exposition, presenting the ideas of some philosopher(s) or commentator(s). However, the paper should provide not just exposition but also your analysis and evaluation, whether in agreement, disagreement, or a combination of both.

The Introduction:

 In a brief paragraph, state the problem or question of the paper, the position you intend to defend, and the steps, or sections, by which you will proceed.

The Body:

Explain and defend what you claim by providing examples, implications, consequences, etc., and also supportive principles or general ideas. For principles and general ideas, clarify what is or might be meant and whether there are problems of vagueness or inconsistency.

Consider and comment on possible objections to your position.

The Conclusion:

(not as such necessary if your last point indicates the overall result).

Restate the thesis and briefly summarize the argument of the paper.


Pause occasionally throughout to state what has so far been shown and what remains to be shown. Provide a “roadmap” for the reader.

Write clearly and plainly, but avoid a manner or style that is too casual. Use of the first person, “I”, is acceptable if for saying what you mean, intend to argue, etc.      

Avoid extensive quotations. Explain matters in your own terms as much as possible. Quotations should be used only to cite a striking statement made by someone, or to illustrate a point, or to provide a passage you want specifically to analyze.

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