CoBE professor’s in-class coffee exercise sparks ethics discussion

Monday, January 11, 2021, 5:29am by

Dr. Todd Inouye’s in-class exercise From Farm to Cup: A Coffee Supply Chain Negotiation has already earned international recognition as an exemplary teaching innovation. Now it has caught the attention of the Society of Corporate Compliance and Ethics (SCCE),  a professional business society with over 7,500 members worldwide.  In the latest issue of ethikos, the society’s official publication, Dr. Inouye is interviewed by Adam Turteltaub, CHC, CCEP, Chief Engagement & Strategy Officer, SCCE & HCCA (Health Care Compliance Association).

The original article, published in the Decision Sciences Journal of Innovative Education by Dr. Inouye and his colleague Dr. James Kling, describes a role play using the global coffee supply chain. In this exercise, business undergraduates practice negotiations, improve their understanding of supply chain management, and consider the ethical implications of certain business transactions.

In the ethikos interview, Dr. Inouye elaborates on the concept of bounded ethicality, and how managers are limited in what they can consider and assume  when doing business. Often managers do not realize that they can indirectly contribute to unethical practices in making day-to-day decisions. Managers need to understand that they are responsible for much more than simply growing revenues or cutting costs. They are required to have a good understanding of how their own decisions will impact other members of their supply chains.

Asked how this topic connects to his research interests, Dr. Inouye responded,

Business ethics as a discipline is always applicable across every circumstance and yet it remains one of the least understood concepts for professionals and students alike. There are no clear ethical boundaries to follow as these are typically determined by one’s personal experience, education, the views of their peers along with the views of their society. What may be clearly unethical for one, may be ethical and even expected for another. As a strategic management professor, it is my responsibility to help students to understand how ethics are intertwined in all business decision making and that their “ethical switch” should always be turned on. As graduates of the University of Hilo, they are expected to be good community stewards wherever they do business and having the necessary ethical awareness is always expected.

In order to be successful over the long term, business leaders need to think about the ethical implications of their decisions, not only for themselves and their colleagues, but also for the rest of the supply chain as well as the community stakeholders they serve.
As Benjamin Franklin once said, “It takes many good deeds to build a reputation, and only one bad one to ruin it.”