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Business Ethics for a Material World
An Ecological Approach to Object Stewardship

Part of Business, Value Creation, and Society

  • Author: Ryan Burg, Bucknell University, Pennsylvania
  • Date Published: March 2022
  • availability: Available
  • format: Paperback
  • isbn: 9781316634004


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About the Authors
  • Increasingly, conscientious consumers and green marketers are recognizing that material things, not firms, must be made responsible. Even so, many scholars in ethics, sustainability, and governance focus on people and organizations, ignoring the flows of things. In this book, Ryan Burg argues that material things are fundamental features of moral life, serving as both valuable instruments and guides for responsibility. Unless care is taken for these non-living entities, living things cannot be protected. Viewing the global economy as a network of material transfers, Burg argues that to facilitate object care, professionals must act as stewards. By tracing the origins and disposal of workplace objects through this material network, businesses and employees can discover the outcomes for which they are responsible, and managers can align ethics, sustainability and governance with a truly global formulation of responsibility.

    • Suggests a new way of allocating responsibility in business ethics, by tracing objects along a supply chain and between firms
    • Offers illustrative case studies of individual objects and firms to examine ethical responsibility
    • Examines how empathy is considered in interpersonal ethics and applies it to non-human interactions
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    Reviews & endorsements

    'Objects can help us decide who should be responsible for what'. That is the premise of this fascinating study of the tentacles of ethics and responsibility surrounding objects and how they come to be what they are. Ryan Burg offers an insightful, rich, and comprehensive analysis of the ethics surrounding objects. This fresh - and refreshing - approach to business, individual, and societal responsibilities is very compelling and should find wide readership among both scholars and practitioners.' Sandra Waddock, Galligan Chair of Strategy, Carroll School Scholar of Corporate Responsibility, Boston College Carroll School of Management

    'Our gestalt for business ethics has been dominated by notions such as 'stakeholder', 'social contract' and 'corporate governance' - notions that position people in the foreground while leaving nature and objects in the background. This book erases this picture. It substitutes a deceptively simple concept of 'singularity' - one that sees everything (that is, every-single-thing) on its own terms, and in relationship to every other thing. We've been waiting for a schema that truly fits business into the natural environment. Here it is.' Thomas Donaldson, Mark O. Winkelman Endowed Professor, The Wharton School University of Pennsylvania

    'Business Ethics for a Material World, takes a unique perspective on corporate responsibility. Burg's argument that material things provide important insights into the allocation of moral responsibility is an important and critical insight that has been neglected in the literature. This book will inspire new research from the perspective of materiality, and it is a 'must read'.' Patricia H. Werhane, Wicklander Chair in Business Ethics, DePaul University, Illinois

    'Bringing to bear an extensive historical and contemporary knowledge of how people interact with their physical surroundings, Burg provides a new and vivid way to understand the complex interactions that constitute the value chains of the twenty-first century. Most of us, most of the time, have a thin and unreflective perception of the physical world around us. Burg invites us to see in the material of this world the myriad of hands, hearts, and minds that have gone into creating these things. Burg entreats readers to get to know - really know - the stuff that surrounds us, as both physical artifacts and cultural symbols.' Robert Phillips, David Meade White, Jr Chair in Business, University of Richmond, Virginia

    'Burg's concept of 'object', 'material' or 'matter', and 'thing' is primordial, unique, and highly useful as a way of understanding many components of human behavior, business behavior, plus the ethical and value dimensions of all kinds of organizations. His concept broadens and deepens the investigative, research-based query into the nature and functions of ecological systems plus the associated responsibilities that ensue to those affected by such relationships. Indeed, this 'singularity' opens up traditional ethical inquiries to much more comprehensive analysis and inclusiveness than previously understood.' William C. Frederick, Katz Graduate School of Business, University of Pittsburgh

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    Product details

    • Date Published: March 2022
    • format: Paperback
    • isbn: 9781316634004
    • length: 393 pages
    • dimensions: 228 x 152 x 20 mm
    • weight: 0.58kg
    • availability: Available
  • Table of Contents

    1. The singularization of everything
    2. Singularization schema
    3. The power of negative thinking
    4. Three failures in regulated markets
    5. Person, place, and product
    6. Ecological value
    7. Putting responsibility to work
    8. Materiality for business ethics.

  • Author

    Ryan Burg, Bucknell University, Pennsylvania
    Ryan Burg is Assistant Professor of Management at the Higher School of Economics in Moscow. He holds a joint Ph.D. in Business Ethics and Sociology from the Wharton School of Business, University of Pennsylvania, and his dissertation was a finalist for the Social Issues in Management Dissertation award. Professor Burg is also a co-founder of the Responsible Endowments Coalition, a national organization that supports the responsible investment movement on college and university campuses.

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