Until recently, businesses and corporations could argue that their only real commitments were to maximise the return to their shareholders whilst staying within the law. However, the world has changed significantly during the last ten years and now most major corporations recognise that they have significant responsibility to local and global societies beyond simply making profit. This means that there is now an increasing concern with the question of how corporations, and their employees, ought to behave, and this leads us to consider ethics as the appropriate theoretical and philosophical domain. I will bring into the debate two relatively recent approaches to ethics: Jürgen Habermas’s discourse ethics (stemming from his critical theory); and the critical realist approach of Roy Bhaskar. These are interesting for several reasons: they both draw on traditional ethical theories, although different ones; they bring in innovations of practical relevance; and they both share an over-arching critical perspective. After a critical introduction to both ethical theories, their similarities and differences are explored. The article ends by considering the extent to which they may be practically useful within business
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