Business ethics C/B 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 & Mill’s response

  • Bentham: tendency
  • Mill’s better response: rule Utilitarianism