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Compare and contrast the utilitarian approach with the moral rights approach
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LaTrobe University

Faculty of Law and Management

School of Management

MGT1FOM: Foundations of Management

Tutorial Review Questions: Answer Guide

Topic 5: Ethics and Social Responsibility


Compare and contrast the utilitarian approach with

the moral rights approach

to ethical decision making. Which do you believe is

the best for managers to

follow? Why?

The utilitarian approach holds that moral behaviour

s produce the greatest good for the

greatest number. The moral rights approach asserts

that human beings have fundamental

rights and liberties that cannot be taken away by a

n individual’s decision. Decisions

using the utilitarian approach consider the effect

of each alternative on all parties and

choose the one that optimises satisfaction for the

greatest number of people. The moral

rights approach says that the best decision is the

one that best maintains the rights of the

people affected by it. Students will have varied op

inions on which approach a manager

should follow. A case could be made for either appr

oach, although the moral rights

approach probably provides the best legal protectio

n for the manager.


Imagine yourself in a situation of being encouraged

to inflate your expense

account. Do you think your choice would be most aff

ected by your individual

moral development or by the cultural values of the

organisation for which you

worked? Explain.

Some would argue that they would be most affected b

y their individual moral

development – but, this may be an idealistic exagge

ration. As pointed out by the text,

most managers have not advanced beyond the conventi

onal level of personal moral

development where one feels that good behaviour is

living up to what is expected by

others and the social system. People at this level

would be strongly affected by the

cultural values of the organisation. Many people ar

e still on the pre-conventional level


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and would act in accordance with their own self-int

erest. Persons on both of these levels

would probably go ahead and inflate their expense a

ccounts. Only persons on the

principled level would resist the pressure and not

inflate the expense account if they felt

it was ethically wrong.


The criteria of corporate social responsibility su

ggest that economic

responsibilities are of the greatest magnitude, fol

lowed by legal, ethical and

discretionary responsibilities. How do these four t

ypes of responsibility relate

to corporate responses to social demands? Discuss.

The four types of corporate responses to social dem

ands are: obstructive, defensive,

accommodative and proactive. An obstructive respons

e denies all responsibility for a

social claim against the organisation. A defensive

response admits to some errors – the

organisation will defend itself but will not obstru

ct justice. An accommodative response

means that the organisation will try to meet whatev

er legal or ethical responsibilities

confront it. A proactive response means that firms

go beyond the social demands made

upon them to find ways to help society. In a genera

l sense, the four social responses

relate to the attitudes reflected in the four types

of responsibilities. An organisation that

takes a purely economic perspective on social respo

nsibility is more likely to use an

obstructive response when a social issue arises. An

organisation that accepts legal

responsibility will tend to use a defensive respons

e. An organisation that operates under

an accommodative responsibility framework will tend

to use an accommodative

response to meet social demands. Finally, an organi

sation that pursues discretionary

ethical responsibilities will tend to use a proacti

ve response for specific social issues.

Thus, the type of underlying responsibility perspec

tive the organisation uses to deal

with the environment will tend to be associated wit

h the type of response the

organisation makes to specific social demands on it



From where do managers derive ethical values? What

can managers do to help

define ethical standards for the organisation?

Ethical values typically derive from personal ethic

s, corporate ethics, or professional

ethics. Personal ethics are adapted from managers’

individual values, which may reflect

religious and family background as well as personal

attitudes. Corporate ethics derive

from the corporation’s values and culture. Certain

things may be valued in one company


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