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Does the content of a physically dangerous job affect the moral permissibility of hiring for that job? To what extent may employers consider costs in choosing workplace safety measures? Drawing on Kantian ethical theory, this article defends two strong ethical standards of workplace safety. First, the content of a hazardous job does indeed affect the moral permissibility of offering it. Unless employees need hazard pay to meet basic needs, it is permissible to offer a dangerous job only if prospective employees have a reason other than hazard pay to choose this job instead of safer alternatives. Second, employers typically cannot justify omitting expensive safety measures by paying employees more, even if employees prefer higher pay to greater safety. Employers offering dangerous jobs must meet these two standards to avoid treating their employees merely as means.
The profound influence of Thomas Donaldson and Thomas Dunfee’s integrative social contracts theory (ISCT) on the field of business ethics has been challenged by Andreas Scherer and Guido Palazzo’s Habermasian approach, which has achieved prominence of late with articles that expressly question the defensibility of ISCT’s hypernorms. This article builds on recent efforts by Donaldson and Scherer to bridge their accounts by providing discursive foundations to the hypernorms at the heart of the ISCT framework. Extending prior literature, we propose an ISCT* framework designed to retain ISCT’s practical virtue of managerial guidance while answering the demands of Scherer and Palazzo’s discursive account. By subscribing to a suitable portfolio of discursively justified hypernorms, we argue, companies unlock the valuable moral guidance of ISCT*, which says to treat these hypernorms as unequivocal outer bounds to the pursuit of business and as a starting point to tailor local norms through discursive stakeholder engagement.
Although the literature on multi-stakeholder initiatives for sustainability has grown in recent years, it is scattered across several academic fields, making it hard to ascertain how individual disciplines, such as business ethics, can further contribute to the debate. Based on an extensive review of the literature on certification and principle-based MSIs for sustainability (n = 293 articles), we show that the scholarly debate rests on three broad themes (the “3Is”): the input into creating and governing MSIs; the institutionalization of MSIs; and the impact that relevant initiatives create. While our discussion reveals the theoretical underpinnings of the 3Is, it also shows that a number of research challenges related to business ethics remain unaddressed. We unpack these challenges and suggest how scholars can utilize theoretical insights in business ethics to push the boundaries of the field. Finally, we also discuss what business ethics research can gain from theory development in the MSI field.
Global multi-stakeholder initiatives (MSIs) are important instruments that have the potential to improve the social and environmental sustainability of global supply chains. However, they often fail to comprehensively address the needs and interests of various supply-chain participants. While voluntary in nature, MSIs have most often been implemented through coercive approaches, resulting in friction among their participants and in systemic problems with decoupling. Additionally, in those cases in which deliberation was constrained between and amongst participants, collaborative approaches have often failed to materialize. Our framework focuses on two key aspects of these breakdowns: assumptions about the orientation of MSI participants, and the deliberation processes that participants use to engage with each other to create these initiatives and sustain them over time. Drawing from stakeholder and deliberation theories, we revisit the concept of MSIs and show how their deliberative capacity may be enhanced in order to encourage participants to collaborate voluntarily.