Chapter 5: Responsible

From an ethics perspective, we are all responsible for our actions. We have an obligation to hold ourselves and others accountable for their behavior (de Villiers, 2020). de Villiers goes on to outline some features of the “ethics of responsibility”:

  • There should be an ongoing reflection and improvement on the definition of responsibility and ethics.
  • Organizations should engage in the best practices but also relevant research which identifies how culture and moral responsibility can be effective integrated into an organization.
  • Education and guidance on ethics, responsibility, and culture must be provided in order to identify areas for improvement and growth.
  • Be consistent in highlighting and enforcing responsibilities.

For the full article and more information on de Villier’s perspective, read it here: An ethics of responsibility for our time: A proposal (2020)


"Fair trade products for change" by is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0.
“Fair trade products for change” by is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0.

Social Responsibility At-Large

Responsibility is made of social, environmental, philanthropic, and economic factors (Tigan et al., 2023). Ethical and Social responsibility is the idea that businesses should balance profit-making activities with activities that benefit society. It involves developing businesses with a positive relationship to the society in which they operate (Danielson; Tigan et al., 2023).

Social responsibility takes on different meanings within industries and companies. For example, Starbucks Corporation and Ben & Jerry’s Homemade Holdings Inc. have blended social responsibility into the core of their operations. Both companies purchase Fair Trade Certified ingredients to manufacture their products and actively support sustainable farming in the regions where they source ingredients. Conversely, big-box retailer Target Corporation, also well- known for its social responsibility programs, has donated money to communities in which the stores operate, including education grants (Danielson).

"Sustainability poster - Fair trade" by kevin dooley is licensed under CC BY 2.0.
“Sustainability poster – Fair trade” by kevin dooley is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

The Fair Trade concept is a world-wide movement where goods are produced and sourced in a sustainable and environmentally-friendly way. For retailers who procure products from less-developed countries, sustainable sources of supply cannot be maintained without workers and farmers receiving a living wage (Danielson).

“When people have the capacity to invest in better futures, the result is a healthier workforce and ultimately higher quality goods. Our model is fueled by committees of farmers, workers, and fishermen who decide how to invest the Fair Trade Premium based on their community’s greatest needs: often clean water, education, and healthcare.”

So-called “green” companies enjoy enhanced reputations and receive positive support from customers that often results in increased revenues (Danielson; Tigan et al., 2023). Research shows there is a perception that business should participate in these social and philanthropic obligations (Tigan et al., 2023).

DEI is Everyone’s Responsibility

The twenty-first century workplace features much greater diversity than was common even a couple of generations ago. Individuals who might once have faced employment challenges because of religious beliefs, ability differences, or sexual orientation now regularly join their peers in interview pools and on the job. Each may bring a new outlook and different information to the table; employees can no longer take for granted that their coworkers think the same way they do. This pushes them to question their own assumptions, expand their understanding, and appreciate alternate viewpoints. The result is more creative ideas, approaches, and solutions. Thus, diversity may also enhance corporate decision-making (Rice University).

Achieving equal representation in employment based on demographic data is the ethical thing to do because it represents the essential American ideal of equal opportunity for all. It is a basic assumption of an egalitarian society that all have the same chance without being hindered by immutable characteristics. However, there are also directly relevant business reasons to do it. More diverse companies perform better, as we saw earlier in this chapter, but why? The reasons are intriguing and complex. Among them are that diversity improves a company’s chances of attracting top talent and that considering all points of view may lead to better decision-making. Diversity also improves customer experience and employee satisfaction (Rice University).

To achieve improved results, companies need to expand their definition of diversity beyond race and gender. For example, differences in age, experience, and country of residence may result in a more refined global mind-set and cultural fluency, which can help companies succeed in international business. A salesperson may know the language of customers or potential customers from a specific region or country, for example, or a customer service representative may understand the norms of another culture. Diverse product-development teams can grasp what a group of customers may want that is not currently being offered (Rice University).

Resorting to the same approaches repeatedly is not likely to result in breakthrough solutions. Diversity, however, provides usefully divergent perspectives on the business challenges companies face. New ideas help solve old problems—another way diversity makes a positive contribution to the bottom line (Rice University).

Learn more about how Diversity is Everyone’s Responsibility on this blog by Corey Moseley (2020).


Danielson, R. (n.d.). Ethical and social responsibilities. Lumen Learning. Retrieved on October 13, 2023 from

de Villiers, E. (2020). An ethics of responsibility for our time: A proposal. Stellenbosch Theological Journal, 6(1).

Rice University (2018). Business ethics. Retrieved on October 13, 2023 from

Tigan, E., Lungu, M., Brinzan, O., Blaga, R., Milin, I., & Gavrilas, S. (2023). Responsibility as an ethics and sustainability element during the pandemic. Behavioral Sciences, 13(7).




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Leadership Ethics by Andrea Bearman is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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