Business and the Greater Good

Business and the Greater Good

Rethinking Business Ethics in an Age of Crisis

Studies in TransAtlantic Business Ethics series

Edited by Knut J. Ims and Lars J.T. Pedersen

With cutting-edge insights from leading European and North American scholars, this authoritative book addresses the fundamental problems of business in an age of crisis whilst presenting radical, but practical, solutions.

Chapter 1: Rethinking business ethics in an age of crisis

Knut J. Ims and Lars Jacob Tynes Pedersen

Subjects: business and management, business ethics and trust, corporate social responsibility, international business


The new millennium has been plagued by several crises, of which the financial and climate crises have gained most public attention. The financial crisis cast a vast number of people into unemployment while their lifetime savings evaporated and many lost their homes. The inequality between the poor and the rich significantly increased. During the last decades in the US, the top 1 percent managed to obtain a fifth of the national income; wealth became even more unequally distributed than before (Stiglitz 2012). Among the manifold consequences of this growing inequality are lower health and lower life expectancies in many countries. In this respect, the real price of the financial crisis is not first and foremost an economic problem, but rather a serious human one (e.g., Kentikelenis et al. 2011). However, the financial crisis is perhaps only a symptom of even more profound problems in our time. We are facing an environmental crisis due to the consequences of an economy dependent on oil and coal, which pollutes the soil, water and air, and that ultimately threatens the climate by heating the atmosphere to an unprecedented level. Thereby, biodiversity and the life prospects of future generations on earth are threatened. Corporate recklessness has played a part in this picture. A prominent example of corporate environmental transgressions is Deepwater Horizon – the BP oil spill in the Mexican gulf in 2011. Also, we increasingly see controversial business cases related to novel practices like oil sands extraction and so-called fracking.