BUU33590 Business in Society

(5 ECTS)


Daniel Malan                    

Phone: +353 87 4308605
E-mail: daniel.malan@tcd.ie 
Office Hours: Meetings can be scheduled at any time via an email request; there will also be a weekly Zoom office hour

Module Description:

The Business in Society module investigates the relationship between business and society. The point of departure is that business forms an inherent part of society; hence, business in society, not business and society. The module critically explores some of the more traditional topics of corporate social responsibility (CSR), but the focus is on new models and new ways in which the purpose of business can be understood. The module follows the key ideas put forward by Ed Freeman and others in the prescribed textbook, “The power of and : responsible business without trade-offs”. These ideas focus on purpose, stakeholder value, business as a societal institution, the complexity of people and the necessity to put business and ethics together. In addition, the impact of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, the importance of corporate governance and the value of accountability and disclosure are also addressed.

Learrning & Teaching Approach: 

The approach in this module is primarily face-to-face. It is expected that students should complete the relevant pre-reading and engage actively in class discussions and group activities. Group debates will also take place at scheduled times in the second half of the module.

Learning Outcomes:

Having completed this module, you should be able to:

  1. Explain and evaluate core theories, concepts and frameworks through which the role of business in society is informed;
  2. Differentiate between and explain some of the core dichotomies in the field, e.g. profit and purpose, shareholder and stakeholder, regulation and voluntary action, etc.;
  3. Recognise and evaluate the ethical significance of business decisions, activities and behaviour on society; and
  4. Recognise and evaluate the emerging role of technology and its impact on society.

Required Textbooks:

Freeman, R.E., Martin, K.E., and Parmar, B.L. (2020). The power of and: responsible business without trade-offs. Columbia University Press.

General Supplementary Readings:

Donaldson, T. and Walsh, J. (2015). Toward a theory of business. Research in Organizational Behavior, 35, 181-207. DOI: 10.1016/j.riob.2015.10.002 

Friedman, M. (1970). The Social Responsibility of Business is to Increase its Profits. Available at https://www.nytimes.com/1970/09/13/archives/a-friedman-doctrine-the-social-responsibility-of-business-is-to.html 

International Integrated Reporting Council (2013). The International <IR> Framework. Available at https://integratedreporting.org/resource/international-ir-framework/ 

Porter, M. E. & M. Kramer,( 2011). The Big Idea: Creating Shared Value; How to reinvent capitalism – and unleash a wave of innovation and growth. Harvard Business Review, 89, 62-77. 

The United Nations (n.d.). The sustainable development goals. Available at https://www.un.org/sustainabledevelopment/sustainable-development-goals/ 

World Economic Forum (2016). “Values and the Fourth Industrial Revolution: Connecting the Dots between Value, Values, Profit and Purpose”, published by the World Economic Forum, Geneva, 2016. Available at https://www.weforum.org/whitepapers/values-and-the-fourth-industrial-revolution-connecting-the-dots-between-value-values-profit-and-purpose. 

World Economic Forum (2020). “The Great Reset”. Available at https://www.weforum.org/focus/the-great-reset


Assessment for this module comprises one examination, an individual assignment and a group assignment.

Individual assignment (10% of final grade) 

Assess one of the team debates in which your syndicate group did not participate (specific debate to be assigned by the lecturer) and write a 250 word assessment based on the rubric (to be supplied by the lecturer). More detail will be provided in the first week of the module. The format should be reflective and no referencing is required. The deadline and submission details will be communicated.

Group assignment (20% of final grade) 

The group assignment is integrated with the class debates. Two groups will compete against each other by either supporting or opposing a statement related to the topic of business in society. The topics will be provided during session 3.  Each syndicate group has to prepare a 15 minute presentation, as well as a 1000 word written report on the topic. The written report should reflect the position that you have to defend in the debate and does not have to reflect your individual opinions. References should be according to the Harvard method and all sources should be referenced correctly. When direct quotes are used, they should always appear between quotation marks.

Final Examination (70% of final grade)

There will be a final Take Home Offline Examination based on a case study.