Business ethics A* grade summary notes


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AO1 on the theorie(s) & application in the question

CSR, including Util & Kant application

Globalisation,  including Util & Kant application

Whistleblowing, including Util & Kant application


  • Sweatshops involve whatever is relevant to the question: CSR, Globalisation and/or whistleblowing.

The Utilitarian defence of sweatshops

  • Will MacAskill’s defence of sweatshops using Utilitarian reasoning.
  • People in developing countries choose to work in sweatshops because it is better than starving.
  • Technically, sweatshops are a net benefit to those workers they exploit and customers who get cheaper products.
  • Utilitarianism justifies them, though Kant would not allow them due to their treatment of workers as a mere means.


  • Utilitarianism faces the issue of liberty & rights. 
  • Utilitarianism justifies infliction of harm on people if it maximises overall happiness.
  • This justifies violating human rights, including exploitation in sweatshops.
  • Kant doesn’t have this issue, since his ethics insists that we always treat people as ends.

Optional further evaluation:

  • Mill’s version of rule Utilitarianism solves this issue and is better than Kant
  • ‘The harm principle’ is one of Mill’s favourite rules. It says people should be free so long as they do not harm others.
  • Mill would not allow sweatshops that directly harm others, such as those who employ children too young to consent or those which force employees to work (Bangladesh example).
  • This balanced view seems superior to Kant’s view, since Kant famously would not value consequences even to save a life.
  • Mill’s ethics it seems would allow sweatshops to save lives, so long as they were freely chosen by competent adults who accepted the harm in order to avoid starvation.

The issue of calculation

  • Kant seems better than Utilitarianism, because he does not have the calculation issue
  • Utilitarianism seems to require that we can predict the future, that we can measure subjective mental states like pleasure and that we can do all this in time-sensitive conditions.
  • Application: Individual cases of CSR or the effects of globalisation or whistleblowing are pretty much impossible to predict etc.
  • So, we cannot actually calculate what is right or wrong if we follow Utilitarianism.
  • Kant doesn’t face this issue – in fact he criticises consequentialist ethics with this issue. He points out that we cannot predict or control consequences, so we can’t be responsible for them.

Bentham’s response:

  • Bentham: tendency. We can judge by the tendency to produce good consequences similar actions have had in the past. We don’t need to predict the future, just to have a reasonable expectation of the consequences.
  • The issue with Bentham’s response is that it still requires people to have detailed knowledge of the history of previous similar actions and to apply them in complex ways to what might be quite a different or even unique situation.

Mill has a better response

  • As a rule utilitarian, Mill can claim that an action is good if it conforms to a rule which if followed will maximise happiness. 
  • Society can discover and progressively update its rules as we gain more understanding of how to maximise happiness. 
  • People don’t need to make complex calculations, only know and follow the society’s rules.

Adam Smith on Capitalism, including Util & Kant

Milton Friedman as a critic of Util & Kant

Optional: critique of Friedman