27 April 2023
Sixth Formers studying business and theology enjoyed a business ethics talk on Wednesday 26 April, a topic on both A Level courses, from London Business School Professor, Chris Higson. Tailoring his talk to both audiences, he explained how ethics, both personal and business, are about choice, and whether we choose to do good things or bad things.
Theologian Thomas Aquinas famously asked in the 13th century what a fair rate of interest was. Bringing the debate up to date, Professor Higson asked his audience, ‘What is a fair price for an iPhone?’ The consensus: we would probably pay whatever is asked to get the benefits of a smart phone. Professor Higson then discussed the Friedman doctrine, also known as shareholder theory, and businesses’ responsibility to maximise profit. Should businesses do whatever is necessary to achieve maximum profit regardless of ethics?
Professor Higson’s talk also encompassed the North Sea Shell/Brent Spar/Greenpeace dispute in 1995, which forced global companies to think about their reputational risk. Is good ethics, good business? His fascinating talk concluded with a look at philanthropic capitalism. Be ruthless in pursuit of profit then give it all away at the end like Bill Gates - how ethical is that?
Thank you to Professor Higson, who is also a Woldingham parent, for such a stimulating talk that undoubtedly deepened students’ understanding of this very interesting topic.