Ethics and Organisations

Module description


Technology and innovation are shaping and changing society (or are promising to) in dramatic ways. In recent years, pressure has mounted for technology and innovation to be ethically responsible - shifting innovation from a focus on delivering economic value to addressing societal challenges such as those outlined in the UN Sustainable Development Goals. This module will explore ethically responsible innovation and what this trend means for business organisations. Students will have the opportunity to investigate emerging and potentially disruptive innovations such as driverless cars, genome editing, mineral mining on Mars, genetically modified insects that eliminate malaria, robotics, and geo-engineering as a response to climate change. These and other cases of technological innovation will be explored through the literatures on business ethics and responsible innovation. Together, we will examine how this trend toward ethically responsible innovation is shaping business’s relationship with society and the opportunities and challenges of responsibly innovating to achieve social and environmental goals. As a final year module, students have the chance to engage in a significant amount of critical reflection, and self-directed study, spending time researching and reading academic journal articles that support the ideas put forward in the lectures and workshops.


Additional Information:


The module draws on cases of technological innovation with international (and interplanetary) reach. Students are encouraged to consider the international and cultural dimensions of responsibility and social and environmental global challenges.

External Engagement

Guest speakers will be invited to participate in guest lectures and workshops.


Students have the opportunity to develop a number of skills valued by employers, including their creativity, critical thinking and presentation skills. They also develop their ability to reflect and address various ethical dilemmas.


We directly address sustainability and sustainable development through contemporary global challenges and examine business’s role in developing technological innovations to address these challenges.

Full module specification

Module title:Ethics and Organisations
Module code:BEM3009
Module level:3
Academic year:2017/8
Module lecturers:
  • Dr Sarah Hartley -
Module credit:15
ECTS value:






Duration of module: Duration (weeks) - term 2:


Module aims

This module will introduce students to the significant role technological innovation plays in society and its relevance for business organisations. The module provides third-year students with relevant knowledge and skills to critically engage with technological innovation responsibly across a range of sectors as they prepare for the next stage of their career. Designed to engage students in debates and discussions about emerging technologies and business’s role in society, this module challenges students to think independently and work as a team.


ILO: Module-specific skills

  • 1. Understand the need for ethical questions about emerging technological innovation
  • 2. Identify and explain some of the most cutting-edge technological innovations and the ethical questions they raise
  • 3. examine the way in which ethically responsible innovation is shaping business's relationship with society and the role of the business organisation in the innovation system

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

  • 4. Recognise and explain the concept of responsible innovation and the implications for business organisations
  • 5. Ability to critically reflect on new technological innovation from an ethical perspective
  • 6. Select and justify a chosen course of action

ILO: Personal and key skills

  • 7. Skills to reflect, analyse, think critically, communicate and present an evidence-based and consistent argument (in both oral and written form)
  • 8. Work independently and in teams

Learning activities and teaching methods (given in hours of study time)

Scheduled Learning and Teaching ActivitiesGuided independent studyPlacement / study abroad

Details of learning activities and teaching methods

CategoryHours of study timeDescription
Scheduled Learning and Teaching Activities11Lectures
Scheduled Learning and Teaching Activities10Workshops
Guided independent and group study129Reading, research, essay writing and group work

Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Group Project pitchGroup presentation in workshops, 5-10 mins1-8Oral feedback from the class and the workshop lead

Summative assessment (% of credit)

CourseworkWritten examsPractical exams

Details of summative assessment

Form of assessment% of creditSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Essay (individual)7022501-8Written Feedback
Group project: presentation (groups of max. 6)1510 minute oral presentation and slide deck1-8Oral feedback from the class and oral and written feedback from the workshop lead
Group project: executive summary (groups of max. 6)15750 words1-8Written Feedback

Details of re-assessment (where required by referral or deferral)

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
Group project and Group ReportIndividual Project Report 2000 words (30%)1-8Aug/Sep
EssayEssay 2250 (70%)1-8Aug/Sep

Re-assessment notes

If you are referred/deferred in the module, you will be required to resubmit the failed or missing piece of work.

Syllabus plan

This syllabus list is indicative. 

  • What is technological innovation and why might it not be responsible?
  • Ethical decision-making frameworks
  • Substantive and procedural justice
  • Responsible innovation
  • Sustainable development and the UN Sustainable Development Goals
  • Actors and institutions with ethical responsibility for innovation
  • Responsible business: New business models
  • Exploring technological innovation case studies: driverless cars, genome editing, mineral mining on Mars, genetically modified insects, robotics, geo-engineering and others.

Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

Owen, R., Bessant, J. and Heintz, M. eds., 2013. Responsible innovation: managing the responsible emergence of science and innovation in society. John Wiley & Sons.

Collingridge, D. 1980, The Social Control of Technology, Open University Press.

Mazzucato, M. (2013). The entrepreneurial state: debunking public vs. private sector myths. Anthem Press, London.

Voegtlin, C. and Scherer, A.G., 2017. Responsible innovation and the innovation of responsibility: Governing sustainable development in a globalized world. Journal of Business Ethics, 143(2), pp.227-243.

Nelson, R. 2011. The Moon and the Ghetto revisited, Science and Public Policy, 38(9), pages 681–690

Leach, M. and Scoones, I. 2007. The Slow Race: Making technology work for the poor, London, Demos,

Module has an active ELE page?


Origin date


Last revision date