What’s in a Name? Business Ethics Jargon

You may have noticed that this blog is called “The Business Ethics Blog.” So, clearly my interest is in Business Ethics. But a lot of the people reading this blog are probably more used to talking about “Corporate Social Responsibility” or “Sustainability.” And some of you may really be interested in “Corporate Citizenship” or “Values-Based Management” or (oh no!) the so-called “Triple Bottom Line.”

What these terms all have in common is that they’re all ways of talking about doing the right thing in business. But why are there so many different vocabularies for this? Does it matter which one we use? Are some better than others? Why?

Wayne Norman and I recently gave a presentation on this topic, at the International Center for Corporate Accountability’s 2nd International Conference, on Globalization and the Good Corporation (June 26 – 28, 2007). We’re working that presentation into publishable form right now.

In the meantime, here’s a bit of data regarding the diversity of vocabularies. Here’s a webpage I’ve set up showing the range of terms used just within one single industry — the pharmaceutical industry — to talk about what I would call simply “business ethics.”
Diversity of Normative Vocabularies: The Pharmaceutical Industry

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