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Good Business Rankings: Little Fire, Lots of Smoke!

Before embarking on the journey, please read our piece about business rankings, awards and certificates to familiarise yourself with the challenge.

are business rankings (any) good? (Click on the icon for pdf)

Milton Friedman's one-goal dictate - Profit! - leads to growing "collateral damage". To this day, inhumane conditions are being toiled in countries of the global South to drive down costs in the supply chain. The Federal Environment Agency reports that about half of the companies in the German Stock Index do not sufficiently integrate the risks of climate change into their corporate strategy.Also, the pay of many workers still does not meet a minimum wage that enables cultural and social participation.

Thus, the call to rethink organisations is growing louder. Companies should be aware of their social responsibility and act accordingly. In the meantime, there are numerous rankings, awards and certificates that select socially responsible and "good" companies. However, this rating industry is confusing. Is all this merely window dressing and "good washing"? To find out, we have systematically analysed the rating approaches. The result: what "good" means from the perspective of the rating industry and how it is measured is unfortunately not always good.

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Why is the world better off because this organisation is in it?

Learning Journey

In this phase we focus on Transformation Objectives, reimagining the value that organizations could contribute to a good economy. Ethical foundations and the necessity to re-embed the economy in a good society take center stage. We introduce concepts like virtue ethics and civic economy to question what constitutes genuine value and how organizations can create and measure "goodness". Now we start our practical hunt for organisations that make the world a better place: we use internal and external criteria to screen and filter potential candidates with desktop research. We identify the top three Candidate Good Organizations (CGO).

Core Concepts (click icons to jump to discovery)

Introduction to Theories of Ethics (4)

What is the ethical basis for life and work? How can the main theories of ethics and politics help us to define the good life and the good society?

Alternative Theories for a Responsible Economy (and Responsible Business) (5)

What defines a good economy, and what responsibilities should businesses have toward external stakeholders and society as a whole in such an economy?
What are the prerequisites for an organization to obtain a "license to operate"?

The Challenge to Measure Responsible Business (6)

What are the attempts to define and measure responsibility and sustainability? What are the problems with various existing frameworks?

What IS genuine "value"? What value should organisations create, and how can we measure it?

Based on all of the above, note down in your journal some personal reflections. What is your personal view?

Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) Has Not Worked (3)

Critiques of capitalism and neoliberalism are not new. Why is business failing to address the problems?

chapter 2: the quest for good

Our Perspective On Core Concepts

"What really matters is that humans have no purpose. What we have is a role in an ecosystem. Being able to keep that ecosystem healthy means submitting ourselves to a whole life of being nested in a world that we affect and that affects us and our ability to play our role - not to figure out what we want." ― Carol Sanford

Identifying The Transformation Objectives: Leaders Cannot Remain Morally Mute

As we delved deeper into our exploration, it became evident that many popular alternatives to capitalism fall short of addressing the core issues. Ensnared within a neoliberal ideology and driven by a utilitarian perspective, these alternatives often fail to ask the fundamental questions: What is the true existential purpose of our economy, and what responsibilities does it bear?

We firmly believe that the economy is an integral part of society, and as such, its purpose must stem from the broader purpose of our society. In simpler terms, the economy doesn't operate in a moral vacuum, independently governed by its own set of rules. No matter how passionately some economic theorists may attempt to convince us otherwise, the legitimacy of the economy is intricately tied to its positive impact on society. With this conviction, we began an even more foundational inquiry: we asked what it truly means to lead a fulfilling life, and from that standpoint, how to foster a just and prosperous society. Through this lens, we aimed to redefine the roles of both the economy as a whole and each individual organization within it.

A word of warning: Undoubtedly, the terrain we're now going to navigate is intricate and not for the fainthearted! Some of our inquiries have been a source of contemplation for philosophers for over 2,500 years, without yielding very clear solutions. Moreover, our questions transcend multiple disciplines, encompassing philosophy, psychology, management science, economics, and extending into fields such as sociology, anthropology, and history. Hence, more than furnishing definitive answers we will offer you a few intriguing insights that we've unearthed on our journey, while seeking to kindle your own curiosity to delve deeper into the wealth of perspectives in the discovery section below.

Click on each concept heading to learn more...

🗁 CORE Concept 4: we must go back to back to the drawing board and ask "what is good" (left slide)
Before we go any further, let's take a moment to ground our next step in ethical theory. It's disheartening to note that discussions about business ethics, particularly in business schools, often display a blatant lack of regard for the fundamental principles of ethics. All too frequently, morality is reduced to a mere cost of compliance or reputational risk. This is a grave misconception. As leaders, it's imperative that we grasp the true essence of ethical behavior, as a considerable portion of our most important business decisions hold moral significance.

That said, the understanding the concept of "good" can be a challenging endeavor. In our exploration of various theories, we encountered several misconceptions. Some argue that "good" doesn't exist because it isn't scientific. However, this is a category error, as "good" is a normative philosophical question, not a matter of scientific description. Others believe that "good" is purely personal and subjective, leading to a proliferation of egotism and individualism. While we all have the right to our opinions, it doesn't mean that all opinions are inherently good. Additionally, some contend that morality is a matter of culture, and teaching values is colonial. While there is some truth in cultural relativity, in a global society, we need shared criteria for making global choices. In fact, ethics isn't confined to Sunday sermons; it serves as a dynamic bridge between individual, community, and societal interests, with the ultimate aim of creating a good society that benefits everyone.

So, let's to explore some philosophical theories. In essence, moral philosophy delves into wide and broad questions of what is morally right and wrong, while ethics seeks to more practically help us to choose morally sound courses of action. In this context, we can distinguish three "grand theories of ethics," each offering a distinct perspective on how to act well. These are: a) Utilitarian Ethics, which deems an action as good if its net consequences or utility are favorable for the majority; b) Deontology, where an action is considered good if it adheres to rational rules and laws; and c) Virtue Ethics, which regards an action as good if it is grounded in virtues and contributes to a "good life." In other words, an action is virtuous when the actor is good. We'll explore this concept further in a moment.

How does this relate to our inquiry into purpose? The perspective we adopt on what is considered "good" has profound implications for how we steer our business or the economy. Utilitarianism often legitimises the reckless pursuit of individual freedom, self-interest, or maximum profit without fully accounting for the interests of all stakeholders, society as a whole or future generations. It can justify a multitude of negative actions as long as they are offset by a slight surplus of good—we all have come across notions such as "net zero" or "net positive," or indeed a typical business case. Deontology, on the other hand, tends to reduce ethical conduct to mere rule-following, often crowding out an individual's intrinsic inclination to act ethically. Before we know it, we're merely ticking boxes to meet minimum standards and compliance, relinquishing our moral responsibility to think holistically. Moreover, rules often cannot tell us how to bring out the best in a specific situation.

Today, utilitarianism triumphs. By glorifying utility, efficiency and profit we have turned the question of what is good, of what is beautiful into a question of return on equity. This shift has propelled companies to move at lightning speed from collective endeavors for the public good towards a form of casino capitalism serving only a privileged few. Our "Corporate Society" became an aristocracy of wealth and self-centered consumerism.  Alas, when rational living is reduced to a cost-benefit calculation, life loses its depth, becoming synonymous with bank balances, conspicuous consumption or the pursuit of likes on social media. Ironically, we've even labeled those who resist the utilitarian folly and the transformation into the dystopian homo oeconomicus as irrational - overlooking the fundamental truth that utilitarian instrumental rationality itself is irrational in the first place. And this leads us to an important insight: Adam Smith was right. The invisible hand exists. It is in the way we think, which undergirds our behaviours, institutions and economic models. To restore meaning, we must therefore revisit the fundamental question: Why do we get up every morning and go to work? What is the true value of investing an average of 100,000 hours of our lives? In other words, we must choose an ethical foundation for life which is appropriate for our times.

After engaging with numerous philosophers, we've come to believe that virtue ethics might offer the most compelling option. So, what virtue ethics say about life? Consider its inventor, the great philosopher Aristotle, roaming the Lyceum in Athens 2500 years ago, pondering exactly the same questions we're grappling with today: What is our life's purpose? Like us, he contemplated the myriad goals we could pursue. After much reflection, he concluded that the ultimate purpose of life, its "telos," is life itself. It entails realizing our highest human potential and flourishing – what he termed "eudaimonia," which translates literally to being guided by a benevolent spirit or guardian angel. His perspective is entirely pragmatic: We can flourish if only we are able to cultivate our character and bring wisdom to our actions. We become by doing. Leading a good life is a process, not a fixed outcome. It's not about following rigid rules or chasing profits; it's about the continuous pursuit of excellence.  And here virtue ethics also differs from some of the other wisdom practices we might know, where restraint is required to enable revelation – virtues are not about limiting our emotions and feelings because they are bad; it is not at all a reason-above-feelings narrative – on the contrary. Every single person carries a potential for good inside their soul, as part of a shared spirit of human possibility. Our emotions are giving us the energy to bring the good to life in our actions, but we need to learn to order and emphasize them in the right way. If we temper an emotion or need, it is therefore not just to suppress it, but to enable and emphasize a desire that is most adequate in fostering our best self in a given circumstance. Aristotle emphasized that attaining wisdom requires discipline and ongoing development, by being healthy, cultivating our intellectual and personal qualities, nurturing friendships, and seeking mutual fulfillment within society.

Beyond the many intricate details, I think what truly matters is that virtue ethics offers a new narrative. Aristotle paints a hopeful vision of human beings as ends in themselves, not mere means to an end. According to him, every individual can inspire their life and, through their roles in society, actualize their unique potential as an integral part of the common human good. External goods like status, money, and selfies are only relevant insofar as they enable what truly counts – the realization of our best selves. A wise person wouldn't seek more of these external goods than necessary for their flourishing. Aristotle emphasizes the significance of community, not as a matter of deontic principles, human rights, or religious mandates, but because we all carry only a small part of that essential human spirit, constituting the human good. So we are not simply to "actively listen" to one another, but to actively seek and embrace the inherent good in each other, which we can seek to emulate in our own lives. By the same token, virtuous economic competition isn't about mindlessly beating others, but rather a collaborative challenge aimed at excellence and at discovering the possibilities of our shared humanity.

Want to learn more? Watch Otti's presentation at the HR World Congress 2022 -

🗁 CoRE COncept 5: we suggest a good economy must be embedded within a good society (middle slide)

Let's assume that the purpose of a good life is to flourish, and consequently, a good society is one that fosters the flourishing of most, if not all of its citizens. This perspective potentially enables us to further define the purpose of the economy and the organizations within it.

Our first challenge is that scaling virtue ethics to political systems, as envisioned by philosophers like Aristotle in his "Politeia" and Plato in his "Republic," is a complex endeavor. While both philosophers advocated for the cultivation of virtuous citizens, the practical implementation of virtue ethics within large and diverse contemporary political communities is challenging. Achieving goodness and justice within a political framework based on virtue ethics necessitates careful consideration of how to instill moral virtues, foster inter-independence in the political community, and ensure wise governance, always maintaining a balance between individual liberties and the common good. The possible tension between individual freedom and the collective good in particular complicates the translation of (universal) ethical principles into workable political systems, making it a complex and ongoing philosophical and practical challenge. In a democracy, for example, political power may not necessarily be tied to moral virtue. As Aristotle pointed out, a democracy is governed by the will of a potentially uninformed and self-interested majority, and the character of elected officials or citizens may vary widely.

That said, if we assume that the legitimacy of an economic framework is contingent upon alignment with the values and principles of the prevailing political system, we can further develop our thinking about the good economy. Assuming a virtuous society, however institutionalised, the adoption of virtue ethics in the economy calls for a nuanced approach of "threefolding" that bridges the moral development and virtues of individuals, the ethical character and conduct of businesses, and the collective objective of advancing the common good, recognizing that an economy must always operate as a vital contributor to the ethical and moral fabric of the society it serves.

In this context, we draw inspiration from the insights of Antonio Genovesi, an 18th-century Italian philosopher and economist who, a decade before Adam Smith's "Wealth of Nations," underscored the link between economic well-being and the moral fabric of society. A good economy must remain embedded between philosophy and politics. While Smith's focus was on the pursuit of individual wealth as the primary driver of economic progress within a self-regulating market, magically adjusted by an "invisible hand", Genovesi's approach prioritises ethics, community, and the common good. He empathizes the significance of civil virtues in economic activities, insisting on the importance of relationships, solidarity, and reciprocity in far from anonymous economic transactions. This stands in vivid contrast to viewing economics as a purely technical or amoral field, as proposed by neoclassical economics. In a civil economy, market participants are encouraged to contribute their personal best to the shared endeavor of building a good society. This collective effort aims to enact fairness, social justice, and sustainability through economic activities, providing an alternative to purely market-driven or state-controlled economic models. It places ethics, virtuous community, and social well-being at the heart of economic decision-making.

Within the framework of a civil economy, every company is expected to shoulder responsibilities that transcend profit maximization:

  • Human Development: Companies must support the personal and human development of employees and the community
  • Fair Employment and Labor Practices: Firms must prioritize equitable wages, safe working conditions, and the overall well-being of their employees.
  • Ethical Conduct: Companies are urged to operate with unwavering commitment to ethical behavior, treating employees, customers, suppliers, and stakeholders with fairness, respect, honesty, and integrity.
  • Transparency and Accountability: Companies should maintain transparency in their business practices, financial reporting, and governance. They are also held accountable for their actions.
  • Stakeholder Flourishing: Firms are expected to engage with a diverse range of stakeholders, including employees, customers, suppliers, and the broader community, in order to better understand their needs and concerns, and contribute to their flourishing
  • Supporting the Local Economy: Companies are encouraged to bolster the well-being of the communities they operate in by supporting local businesses, contributing to economic development, and creating employment opportunities.
  • Sustainability: Companies are entrusted with the responsibility of ensuring sustainable business practices that consider the long-term consequences of their operations on the environment, society, and future generations.
  • Societal Responsibility: Firms are called upon to actively engage in activities that advance the interests of society and the common good.
The key point in a civil economy is that it goes beyond simply making businesses "responsible." Instead, organizations should serve as vehicles to collectively bring out the best in us, contributing to the betterment of society as a whole. A civil economy is designed to help us lead good lives within and in support of a flourishing society. While business viability is important, it should always be a secondary consideration. The primary goal is not profit maximization; rather, it's about earning a fair profit that enables meaningful work. In a civil economy, businesses function as integral components of a good society, not merely tools to pursue personal pleasure, profit, or wealth.

🗁 CoRE COncept 6: we believe a new measure for corporate "goodness" is urgently required (right slide)
But how to measure good organisations? Assessing the sustainability of economies and organizations presents a significant challenge, largely due to the prevailing reliance on traditional metrics such as GDP and profit, which often fall short in capturing the full scope of societal and environmental impact. Proposals like the Stiglitz Report have highlighted the limitations of using GDP as a sole measure of economic well-being, emphasizing the need for broader societal indicators. However, implementing these alternative measures has proven to be a complex task, as it requires widespread adoption and consistent data collection. By the same token, assessing sustainable business success is challenging, as effective measures across different industries and regions are lacking, and attempts to act sustainably are often crowded out by the persistence of a shareholder-centric economic paradigm. Today, many different sustainability standards and ratings are available to assess a business's environmental, social and ethical performance. These include ESG (Environmental, Social, and Governance) ratings, Triple Bottom Line (TBL) Reporting, the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) standards, Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) Reports, B Lab's B Impact Assessments, as well as certifications such as Fair Trade, Organic, and ISO standards. The choice of indicators may vary depending on the specific context, but common indicators include:

Environmental Performance:
  • Carbon emissions and energy efficiency
  • Water and resource use
  • Waste reduction and recycling
  • Biodiversity conservation
  • Sustainable sourcing and supply chain practices
Social Impact:
  • Employee well-being, including health, safety, and job satisfaction
  • Diversity and inclusion
  • Community engagement and philanthropy
  • Stakeholder satisfaction and relations
  • Human rights compliance in the supply chain
Ethical and Governance Practices:
  • Ethical leadership and corporate culture
  • Governance and risk management
  • Anti-corruption and bribery measures
  • Transparency and disclosure
  • Legal and regulatory compliance
Social Responsibility and Impact Reporting:
  • Reporting on sustainability initiatives and performance
  • Compliance with recognized ESG (Environmental, Social, Governance) standards
  • Alignment with international sustainability goals (e.g., Sustainable Development Goals)

Long-Term Value Creation:

  • Emphasis on creating value for all stakeholders, not just shareholders
  • Strategic vision and planning for the long term
  • Sustainable growth and competitive advantage
  • Demonstrated commitment to societal and environmental well-being
One specific approach we have found appealing is based on the Economy for the Common Good (ECG). In the ECG framework, businesses are assessed based on a set of common good criteria, which evaluate their social and environmental contributions. Instead of focusing solely on financial profit, the ECG encourages businesses to calculate their Common Good Product (CGP) which assesses a company's positive and negative impacts on various societal and environmental aspects, such as human dignity, social justice, ecological sustainability, and democratic co-determination. Businesses are expected to transparently report their CGP and provide detailed information on how they meet the ECG's common good criteria. This reporting helps stakeholders assess the company's overall contribution to society. The ECG also encourages third-party audits of the common good reports to ensure credibility and transparency. Additionally, the ECG proposes integrating the CGP into the legal and regulatory framework, so that responsible businesses could receive legal benefits, such as tax breaks or easier access to capital, based on their positive CGP balance.

Of course, the ECG approach also faces important challenges, including the complexity and subjectivity of both the selection and the assessment of common good criteria, the absence of universal standards and auditing protocols, resistance to legal integration, the need for a fundamental shift away from profit maximization, the risk of greenwashing, and the requirement to motivate businesses to voluntarily adopt the framework. 


Below you can also find a few blog posts that dive into our evolving thoughts around these concepts

Good Business Rankings: Little Fire, Lots of Smoke!
Good Business Rankings: Little Fire, Lots of Smoke!

Rankings, awards, certificates - there are numerous employer labels that distinguish companies as good employers. But much of it is "good washing", as an analysis by the Research Institute for Work and Working Environments at the University of St. Gallen shows.
(12 min read)

F**k Purpose!
F**k Purpose!
4 Reasons Why New Narratives Cement the Old Status Quo and Avoid the Real Work — and Why Good Is the New Black
(25 min read)
5 - good economy
How Economic Science Lost Its Heart and Soul (…and What We Can Do About It)

Imagine a society where people interact with trust, solidarity and fraternity. Where welfare is not measured in terms of GDP, but lived in terms of public happiness. Where the economy is virtuous and markets aim at shared prosperity through mutual exchange and generous reciprocity. Where organisations are, first and foremost, positive agents of societal change — creating communities, not commodities. And where work is centred on the integral development of each person, not solely on products…
(9 min read)

6 - measures
Fair or Foul: Good Companies or Good Impression Management?

More and more awards for "good companies" that focus on sustainability and social responsibility are entering the employer seal market. But do they live up to their claim of being "good"? We spoke with Prof. Dr. Antoinette Weibel from the University of St. Gallen about her analysis.
(4 min read)

Curious to read more about our ongoing inquiry? A good place to start is our blog with all recent leadership articles and posts.

““Efficiency turns out to mean measurable efficiency. Efficiency comes down to what you can measure and exploit. You can't measure love. You can't measure communityship. But, yeah, you can measure profit.” .” ― Henry Mintzberg

knowledge expeditions

Discover New Puzzle Pieces of Wisdom On A Search For Eureka Moments!

Curious to watch more interviews? Jump to the Leaders for Humanity series for all our exciting interviews with some of the greatest minds of our time.

Materials marked in  dark purple  are foundational. Those flagged in light purple are for in-depth exploration.

Core Concept 4: Ethical Theories

Core Concept 4: Introduction to Ethical Theories

Please ponder: What is the ethical basis for life and work? How can the main theories of ethics and politics help us to define the good life and the good society?

1) Explain the role of normative ethical theory for ethical decision-making in business.

2) Review the most important Western modernist ethical theories, i.e. utilitarianism, duty, virtue ethics, care ethics and contract theories
3) Examine how virtue ethics envisages the cultivation of a good character to lead a good life

This is a very short, condensed beginners guide to ethical decision making: " As people in this world, and good citizens, we are concerned not only with what actions are morally right and morally wrong, but what makes actions morally right or morally wrong. The key is to understand the reasoning that we employ in ethical decision making so we can become more proficient.
Ethical frameworks are perspectives useful for reasoning what course of action may provide the most moral outcome. In many cases, a person may not use a reasoning process but rather do what they simply feel is best at the time. Others may reflexively use a principle they learned from their family, peers, religious teachings or own experiences. The study of ethics has provided many principles that can aid in ethical decision making. Some of the most common are captured in the following 5 ethical frameworks: Virtue Ethics, Deontology, Utilitarianism, Rights-Based Ethics, Care-Based Ethics.

This is chapter 3 of Crane/Matten Business Ethics and it explains different ethical theories: moral egoism, utalitarianism, ethics of duties, rights and justice, virtue ethics, and care/feminist ethics.

As interest in virtue ethics has developed and spread, a variety of accounts of virtue, and of virtue ethics, has emerged. We are now familiar not only with neo-Aristotelian accounts (still the most popular) but also target-centered, exemplarist, agent-based and sentimentalist accounts, as well as accounts based on Kant, utilitarianism and other theories. This blossoming in a former desert is to be heartily welcomed, but it also produces a new issue for virtue ethics. How are we to evaluate, or even compare, these different versions? If we ignore tensions and conflicts between different versions, virtue may appear to be too pliable a concept, easily integrated into widely different theories and so raising doubts about its robustness as a central ethical concept. Yet attempts to judge virtue, and virtue ethics, by fitness, or not, to prior constraints on ethical concepts or theories risk begging important questions. With this in mind, I begin on a comparative project by (briefly) setting out two versions of virtue ethics and asking how well they compare in responding to some tasks and expectations of ethical theory.

Aristotle conceives of ethical theory as a field distinct from the theoretical sciences. Its methodology must match its subject matter—good action—and must respect the fact that in this field many generalizations hold only for the most part. We study ethics in order to improve our lives, and therefore its principal concern is the nature of human well-being. Aristotle follows Socrates and Plato in taking the virtues to be central to a well-lived life. Like Plato, he regards the ethical virtues (justice, courage, temperance and so on) as complex rational, emotional and social skills. But he rejects Plato’s idea that to be completely virtuous one must acquire, through a training in the sciences, mathematics, and philosophy, an understanding of what goodness is. What we need, in order to live well, is a proper appreciation of the way in which such goods as friendship, pleasure, virtue, honor and wealth fit together as a whole. In order to apply that general understanding to particular cases, we must acquire, through proper upbringing and habits, the ability to see, on each occasion, which course of action is best supported by reasons. Therefore practical wisdom, as he conceives it, cannot be acquired solely by learning general rules. We must also acquire, through practice, those deliberative, emotional, and social skills that enable us to put our general understanding of well-being into practice in ways that are suitable to each occasion.
One response to the history of Greek and medieval thought about the virtues might well be to suggest that even within that relatively coherent tradition of thought there are just too many different and incompatible conceptions of a virtue for there to be any real unity to the concept or indeed to the history. Homer, Sophocles, Aristotle, the New Testament and medieval thinkers differ from each other in too many ways. They offer us different and incompatible lists of the virtues; they give a different rank order of importanceto different virtues; and they have different and incompatible theories of the virtues...
A robust critical literature argues that psychology is animated by powerful, but unacknowledged commitments to a culturally based vision of the human good in spite of its ideal of value neutrality. Inasmuch as such commitments seem ineliminable, it seems preferable to address questions of the good directly rather than by tacitly absorbing cultural views. This article explores the human good directly and explicitly within an Aristotelian framework to foster a critical conversation on the good life in psychology. The framework takes human flourishing as the overarching good. Flourishing consists in ongoing participation in characteristic human goods such as knowledge and belonging. Aristotle presented two distinctions in types of goods or ends. First, some ends are chosen for themselves and some are means to other ends. Following Aristotle's function argument, goods such as knowledge and belonging are chosen for themselves because they directly express key features of human nature (i.e., rationality and sociality). I term these goods constitutive because the activities constitute the end. Instrumental goods are means to other ends (e.g., money helps to provide the infrastructure for living well). Second, some goods can be pursued and possessed by individuals and some goods can only be pursued and achieved in concert with others. The latter are shared goals such as friendship and democracy. Virtues or excellences are the personal strengths that make it possible to pursue these goods. In this Aristotelian framework, there are many characteristic human goods, each of which can be pursued in many ways, indicating that there is no single correct form of the good life.

Psychologists are increasingly interested in the topic of eudaimonia, a term adopted from ancient Greek philosophers (with most modern views traceable to Aristotle), referring to human flourishing. Conceptual confusion remains because investigators generally have not clarified how and why they have appropriated Aristotle’s concept of eudaimonia. This chapter presents a close interpretation of Aristotle’s view and explores continuities and discontinuities in psychologists’ application of this original concept to provide a theoretical baseline and increase conceptual clarity. Eudaimonia is explored as an ethical concept referring to the best kind of life, which is an outgrowth of humans’ natural endowments. Eudaimonia is a form of activity (that includes subjective experience, but is not limited to it), comprised by the pursuit of ends that are choiceworthy for human beings. Eudaimonia is a unified way of life, but it has multiple constituents (e.g., belonging, justice, and social harmony). Eudaimonia is related to, but distinct from pleasure (hedonia). Human flourishing is a matter of a complete life that encompasses virtue or excellence, and Aristotle saw it as the ultimate aim of human life. The chapter concludes with several major challenges for eudaimonia researchers.

Good organisations builds on virtue ethics. In this paper Robert Solomon explains why economics is unsuitable for business ethics. He develops the argument why virtue ethics is better suited. In addition he is contrasting virtue ethics to deontology and utalitarianism. He then explains the six dimensions of virtue ethics (in his view): community, excellence, role identity, integrity, practical wisdom and holism. Finally he talks about business and virtues.
Bringing all of this together - here is an essay of the meaning in (and of) life (yet mostly also interesting to see what other approaches are out there in addition). Three of the great sources of meaning in life are the good, the true, and the beautiful, and I aim to make headway on the grand Enlightenment project of ascertaining what, if anything, they have in common. Concretely, if we take a (stereotypical) Mother Teresa, Mandela, Darwin, Einstein, Dostoyevsky, and Picasso, what might they share that makes it apt to deem their lives to have truly mattered? I provide reason to doubt two influential answers, noting a common flaw that supernaturalism and consequentialism share. I instead develop their most plausible rival, a naturalist and non-consequentialist account of what enables moral achievement, intellectual reflection, and aesthetic creation to confer great meaning on a person's life, namely, the idea that they do so insofar as a person transcends an aspect of herself in some substantial way. I criticize several self-transcendence theories that contemporary philosophers have advanced, before presenting a new self-transcendence view and defending it as the most promising.

Core Concept 5: Alternative Theories for a Responsible Economy (& Responsible Business)

Core Concept 5: Alternative Theories for a Good Economy (and Responsible Business)

Please reflect: What are the most important theories that seek to improve Capitalism? How is a "good economy" defined by these different models? What responsibilities should businesses have toward external stakeholders and society as a whole?

1) What is political philosophy and how do the concepts of common good and justice matter for legitimate governance?
2) What is Political Economics? How do politics and economics link?
3) What are the alternative theories for a good economy? Can you discern their ethical and ideological foundations?
4) What is the role of responsible business in each of these alternatives? 

Political philosophy or political theory is the philosophical study of government, addressing questions about the nature, scope, and legitimacy of public agents and institutions and the relationships between them. Its topics include politics, liberty, justice, property, rights, law, and the enforcement of laws by authority: what they are, if they are needed, what makes a government legitimate, what rights and freedoms it should protect, what form it should take, what the law is, and what duties citizens owe to a legitimate government, if any, and when it may be legitimately overthrown, if ever.
This introductory chapter of Heywood reflects on the nature of political ideology. It does so by examining the life and (sometimes convoluted) times of the concept of ideology, the structure of ideological thought, the differences between so-called ‘classical’ ideologies and ‘new’ ideologies, the extent to which ideologies conform to a left/ right divide, and the question of whether ideology has or could come to an end. (Chapter 13 discusses how and why political ideologies matter.)
The idea of justice occupies centre stage both in ethics, and in legal and political philosophy. We apply it to individual actions, to laws, and to public policies, and we think in each case that if they are unjust this is a strong, maybe even conclusive, reason to reject them. Classically, justice was counted as one of the four cardinal virtues (and sometimes as the most important of the four); in modern times John Rawls famously described it as ‘the first virtue of social institutions’ (Rawls 1971, p.3; Rawls, 1999, p.3). We might debate which of these realms of practical philosophy has first claim on justice: is it first and foremost a property of the law, for example, and only derivatively a property of individuals and other institutions? But it is probably more enlightening to accept that the idea has over time sunk deep roots in each of these domains, and to try to make sense of such a wide-ranging concept by identifying elements that are present whenever justice is invoked, but also examining the different forms it takes in various practical contexts. This article aims to provide a general map of the ways in which justice has been understood by philosophers, past and present.
While we have so far looked at "good" on the invidiual level it is also important to understand what "the common good" could be. This has traditionally been a keystone of normative political theory, but its meaning has been contested as you read here in this text by Jane Mansfield. Possible meanings include the aggregrative, procedural, and unitary, and, most recently, a civic account seeing the common good as those goods that all share qua members of the public. The balance between different meanings has changed over time, with aggregative meanings (i.e., the common good as the sum of individual goods) increasing in frequency from the eighteenth century on but challenged in the twentieth. In a major twentieth-century confrontation, empirical social scientists joined some philosophers to argue both that a single conception of the common good was inappropriate for a pluralist society and that the common good could not be known. In response, deliberative theorists, civic republicans, and communitarians argued that uncertainty and contest regarding its meaning should not prevent individuals or communities from trying to act for the common good or from developing a politics in which the common good, conceived always as contested, plays a central role.

Therefore, this manuscript provides an overview of contemporary political philosophies: first, it discusses the debate between liberalism and communitarianism, and secondly, it summarizes the subsequent developments of liberal perfectionism, capability approach, and deliberative democracy. Then, the configuration of these political philosophies is indicated by the figure of two axes of “individual/collective” and “ethical/non-ethical.” The following section compiles the inter-relationships between the conceptions of citizenship, justice, and well-being, regarding the main political philosophies: egoism, utilitarianism, libertarianism, liberalism, communitarianism, and conservatism.

Democratic socialism is a left-wing political philosophy that supports political democracy and some form of a socially owned economy, with a particular emphasis on economic democracy, workplace democracy, and workers' self-management within a market socialist economy or an alternative form of a decentralised planned socialist economy. Democratic socialists argue that capitalism is inherently incompatible with the values of freedom, equality, and solidarity and that these ideals can only be achieved through the realisation of a socialist society. Although most democratic socialists seek a gradual transition to socialism,[6] democratic socialism can support revolutionary or reformist politics to establish socialism. Democratic socialism was popularised by socialists who opposed the backsliding towards a one-party state in the Soviet Union and other nations during the 20th century.

Based on the extended conceptualization of corporate citizenship, as provided by Matten and Crane, this paper examines the new role of corporations in society. Taking the ideas of Matten and Crane one step further, we argue that the status of corporations as citizens is not solely defined by their factual engagement in the provision of citizenship rights to others. By analysing political and sociological citizenship theories, we show that such engagement is more adequately explained by a change in the self-conception of corporate citizens from corporate bourgeois to corporate citoyens. While the corporate bourgeois acts primarily for private business purposes, the corporate citoyen engages in society, performing civil and political rights and duties. As an intermediate actor in society, shaped by the principle of subsidiary task-sharing, the corporate citoyen undertakes co-responsibility for social and civic affairs and actively collaborates with fellow citizens below, beside and beyond governmental regulation.

This explores a broad framework for thinking sociologically about emancipatory alternatives to dominant institutions and social structures, especially capitalism. The framework is grounded in two foundational propositions: (1) Many forms of human suffering and many deficits in human flourishing are the result of existing institutions and social structures. (2) Transforming existing institutions and social structures in the right way has the potential to substantially reduce human suffering and expand the possibilities for human flourishing. An emancipatory social science responding to these propositions faces four broad tasks: specifying the moral principles for judging social institutions; using these moral principles as the standards for diagnosis and critique of existing institutions; developing an account of viable alternatives in response to the critique; and proposing a theory of transformation for realizing those alternatives. The idea of “real utopias” is one way of thinking about alternatives and transformation.

Alternative theories of Good Economy

In this article, we will outline the principles of stakeholder capitalism and describe how this view rejects problematic assumptions in the current narratives of capitalism. Traditional narratives of capitalism rely upon the assumptions of competition, limited resources, and a winner-take-all mentality as fundamental to business and economic activity. These approaches leave little room for ethical analysis, have a simplistic view of human beings, and focus on value-capture rather than value-creation. We argue these assumptions about capitalism are inadequate and leave four problems in their wake. We wish to reframe the narrative of capitalism around the reinforcing concepts of stakeholders coupled with value creation and trade. If we think about how a society can sustain a system of voluntary value creation and trade, then capitalism can once more become a useful concept.

In our current economy, we take materials from the Earth, make products from them, and eventually throw them away as waste – the process is linear. In a circular economy, by contrast, we stop waste being produced in the first place. What will it take to transform our throwaway economy into one where waste is eliminated, resources are circulated, and nature is regenerated?
The circular economy gives us the tools to tackle climate change and biodiversity loss together, while addressing important social needs.

What is Doughnut Economics? If the 21st century goal is to meet the needs of all people within the means of the living planet - in other words, get into the Doughnut - then how can humanity get there? Not with last century's economic thinking. Doughnut Economics proposes an economic mindset that's fit for our times. It's not a set of policies and institutions, but rather a way of thinking to bring about the regenerative and distributive dynamics that this century calls for. Drawing on insights from diverse schools of economic thought - including ecological, feminist, institutional, behavioural and complexity economics - it sets out seven ways to think like a 21st century economist in order to transform economies, local to global. The starting point of Doughnut Economics is to change the goal from endless GDP growth to thriving in the Doughnut. At the same time, see the big picture by recognising that the economy is embedded within, and dependent upon, society and the living world. Doughnut Economics recognises that human behaviour can be nurtured to be cooperative and caring, just as it can be competitive and individualistic.

After explaining the reasons why we must urgently reexamine the foundations of the market economy, the article goes on to illustrate the main differences between the civil market and capitalist market models. It then answers the question of why, in the last quarter of a century, the concept of the civil economy has reemerged as a topic of public debate and scientific research. In particular, it highlights the reasons why the fourth industrial revolution postulates a civil market if the risks involved with the advancement of transhumanism are to be avoided. The article ends with an invitation to transcend the contradictions of the culture of libertarian individualism.

There is a growing insight in the scientific community that most of the burning problems of our times cannot be resolved with the existing economic model. Nevertheless, when it comes to alternatives, only few comprehensive models are at hand. Some models focus on one core value neglected by the current model, such as the Blue Economy (Pauli), or on one principle connected to a core value, like the circular economy or the degrowth approach. Other concepts focus on economic structures beyond markets, such
as the commons, or on financial markets, e. g. local currencies. Furthermore, a lot of initiatives focus mainly on businesses such as the social and solidary economy or the B Corps movement, or on sustainable finance, without questioning the current system per se. The Economy for the Common Good offers a holistic rethinking of ’economy’, a corresponding model of economic policy, composed of 20 core elements, and with strong linkages to economic science and practice.

Regeneration has become a debated topic in organizational studies, yet its characteristics and distinctions from sustainability and circular business models remain unclear. This study aims to provide an initial framework for regenerative business models and differentiate them from sustainable or circular models. Employing literature reviews, six focus groups with international and indigenous participants, and comparisons with seminal articles on sustainable and circular models, this study finds that organizations with regenerative business models focus on planetary health and societal wellbeing. They create and deliver value at multiple stakeholder levels—including nature, societies, customers, suppliers and partners, shareholders and investors, and employees—through activities promoting regenerative leadership, co-creative partnerships with nature, and justice and fairness. Capturing value through multi-capital accounting, they aim for a net positive impact across all stakeholder levels. Regenerative business models share some design approaches with sustainable and circular models but differ in their main goals and systemic perspectives. Achieving regenerative business models requires strong and contested policy frameworks, including animal and nature rights and true pricing. Further research is needed to explore how organizations can incorporate intrinsic notions of value beyond capital and avoid new forms of greenwashing when adopting regeneration and net positive impact narratives.

Regeneration has become a debated topic in organizational studies, yet its characteristics and distinctions from sustainability and circular business models remain unclear. This study aims to provide an initial framework for regenerative business models and differentiate them from sustainable or circular models. Employing literature reviews, six focus groups with international and indigenous participants, and comparisons with seminal articles on sustainable and circular models, this study finds that organizations with regenerative business models focus on planetary health and societal wellbeing. They create and deliver value at multiple stakeholder levels—including nature, societies, customers, suppliers and partners, shareholders and investors, and employees—through activities promoting regenerative leadership, co-creative partnerships with nature, and justice and fairness. Capturing value through multi-capital accounting, they aim for a net positive impact across all stakeholder levels. Regenerative business models share some design approaches with sustainable and circular models but differ in their main goals and systemic perspectives. Achieving regenerative business models requires strong and contested policy frameworks, including animal and nature rights and true pricing. Further research is needed to explore how organizations can incorporate intrinsic notions of value beyond capital and avoid new forms of greenwashing when adopting regeneration and net positive impact narratives.

Core Concept 6: The Challenge to Measure Responsible Business

Core Concept 6: The Challenge to Measure Responsible Business

Please reflect: What are the attempts to define and measure responsibility and sustainability? What are the problems with various existing frameworks?

1) How is social and economic impact of business measured? What are the better known measures and evaluative concepts?
2) What lessons can we learn from the frameworks Triple Bottom Line, ESG or B-Corps?
3) On that basis, how can we design a better way to qualify and select good organizations?

The Commission on the measurement of economic performance and social progress has been created at the beginning of 2008 on French government's initiative. Increasing concerns have been raised since a long time about the adequacy of current measures of economic performance, in particular those based on GDP figures. Moreover, there are broader concerns about the relevance of these figures as measures of societal well-being, as well as measures of economic, environmental, and social sustainability.

Sustainability standards are important governance tools for addressing social and environmental challenges. Yet, such tools are often criticized for being either too open-ended or too restrictive, thereby failing to contribute significantly to the development of sustainable practices. Both dimensions of the critique, however, miss the point. While all standards in principle combine elements of openness and closure, both of which are necessary to keep the sustainability agenda relevant and adaptive, sustainability standards often operate in contexts that favor closure. In this article, we draw on a research tradition that views communication as constitutive of organization to emphasize the significance of communicative mechanisms that stimulate organizational openness in the application of standards. With the notion of “license to critique,” we present a managerial philosophy designed to involve managers and employees, mobilize and develop their knowledge about sustainability and bring it forward for the benefit of both the organization and the environment.

The triple bottom line is a business concept that states firms should commit to measuring their social and environmental impact—in addition to their financial performance—rather than solely focusing on generating profit, or the standard “bottom line.

The sustainable finance transition is currently under way and as such, ESG metrics1 and ratings2 represent an increasingly important tool for integrating sustainability considerations into the investment process.

ESG is both extremely important and nothing special. It's extremely important because it's critical to long‐term value, and so any academic or practitioner should take it seriously, not just those with “ESG” in their research interests or job title. Thus, ESG doesn't need a specialized term, as that implies it's niche—considering long‐term factors isn't ESG investing; it's investing. It's nothing special since it's no better or worse than other intangible assets that create long‐term financial and social returns, such as management quality, corporate culture, and innovative capability. Companies shouldn't be praised more for improving their ESG performance than these other intangibles; investor engagement on ESG factors shouldn't be put on a pedestal compared to engagement on other value drivers. We want great companies, not just companies that are great at ESG. (article by Alex Edmans)

We provide the world's most widely used sustainability reporting standards, which cover topics that range from biodiversity to tax, waste to emissions, diversity and equality to health and safety. As such, GRI reporting is the enabler for transparency and dialogue between companies and their stakeholders.

IUsed by more than 150,000 businesses, the B Impact Assessment is a digital tool that can help measure, manage, and improve positive impact performance for environment, communities, customers, suppliers, employees, and shareholders; receiving a minimum verified score of 80 points on the assessment is also the first step towards B Corp Certification.

But just as the ESG agenda and so-called stakeholder capitalism have begun to feel a backlash, the B Corp ecosystem is now under scrutiny. Many of the smaller companies who were early adopters of the standards are concerned about what they perceive as a focus on enlisting multinationals and trying to get them to be “less bad” rather than to be transformationally “good”. They have also raised questions about the credibility of B Lab, the certifying authority, setting in motion a battle for the heart and soul of the movement.

The Common Good Matrix is a model for the organizational development and evaluation of entrepreneurial as well as charitable activities. It assesses and scores the contribution to the common good. The values shown in the columns are those which promote successful relationships and a good life. The rows reflect the five stakeholder groups which an organization has most contact with. In the intersections between the values and the stakeholder groups, 20 common good themes describe and evaluate an organization’s contribution to the common good.

The Economy for the Common Good proposes a more ethical and sustainable society and organizations based on the common good concept. The study investigates entrepreneurs' reasons for joining the ECG movement and organizational changes introduced following the implementation of the ECG managerial system. Semistructured interviews were held with managers of nine Italian organizations belonging to the movement. Interviews were transcribed, and qualitative content analysis was performed using NVivo 12. Eleven nodes integrating 279 answer units were coded, addressing reasons for adhering, actions introduced, difficulties, overcoming strategies and enablers. The results suggest that ECG values and particularly Environmental Sustainability and Human Dignity are two main reasons to join the movement, that a Common Good Report is a valuable tool for the organizational analysis, that such analysis can be replicated with other ECG organizations, and that pursuing decent work conditions strengthens the adhesion to the ECG movement. The seven conceptual propositions highlight the congruence between the value structure of the organization and the values of the ECG, the congruence between the values held by proximal organizational stakeholders and the changes encouraged by ECG approach, and that rewards and recognition by the organizational stakeholders and society reinforce and maintain the adhesion path

An insightful critical blog by Alex Edmans pointing to an article about a linkage between profit and purpose. The article refers to a study of companies that ‘successfully achieved the dual goals of purpose and profit’. But as Alex points out, it never explains how the study measures either purpose or profit. Purpose is notoriously difficult to measure. Some studies measure whether a company has a purpose statement, but having a statement is meaningless; a company might say something but not deliver. Other studies measure whether companies think that purpose is important, which is again different from actual delivery. Others still measure quantitative outcomes, which miss qualitative elements: for example, demographic diversity bears almost no relation to diversity, equity, and inclusion. Find out more about how difficult it can be to understand whether publications offer credible insights or not, and whose interests they might serve.

We think that the climate challenge is so urgent that we should "Just Do It" - stop talking and start acting. But the trade-offs are real. There are social trade-offs between climate and economic development. There are financial trade-offs, as emitting companies earn higher, not lower, returns. My research ( shows that this isn't due to markets correctly pricing in carbon risk, but companies getting away with emissions due to the lack of government action. These returns may ultimately go to pensioners and savers. (By Alex Edmans)

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onwards and upwards!

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