What is required for "ethics consulting"?
February 12, 2007 12:49 PM   Subscribe

I hear that sometimes businesses and other institutions hire "ethics consultants". Does anyone know anything about getting into ethics consulting or the actual day-to-day activities in ethics consulting? If not, has anyone seen an ethics consultant in action at a company?

I'm a philosopher/ethicist who teaches courses and does research on issues in theortetical and applied (practical ethics). I'm not planning on quitting my day job as an academic (I like it way too much) but my school allows me to spend a certain percentage of my time consulting.

My experience learning about and teaching business ethics makes me comfortable enough with business, business plans, business practices, and "talking business" that I wouldn't be the typical idealistic academic flailing in the real world. But even given all this, I'm not sure what ethics consulting requires to get started and what most companies would want from such a consultant. Is not having a background in law a major liability, for instance? Do businesses ever want anything more than typical CYA-type policy suggestions?
posted by ontic to Work & Money (4 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
My first thought is that, if you teach business ethics all the time, you should reach out to some former students in the business community to get an idea of what they look for in an "ethics consultant." As long as reaching out to former students for personal gain doesn't breach your academic code of ethics, of course.

I think when businesses go to an ethics consultant, they certainly want more than a simple CYA: they want to know what the ethical decision is in the face of a tough choice in which they've been put. However, as you probably know from teaching the B-E classes, "ethics" in business & law is something of a term of art, it's not simply an application of ethical philosophy to the business context. And yes, a lot of ethics situations in business stem from the legal underpinnings of business: fiduciary duties to shareholders, certain disclosure requirements in "self-regulated" industries, etc. I think it would be hard without a legal background, but I don't know if I'd say impossible.

Any reason you can't just reach out to some practicing ethics consultants? There seem to be zillions on google...
posted by Joey Buttafoucault at 1:37 PM on February 12, 2007

Harvard Business School seems to be making a big deal of ethics in its new curriculum redesign. That article might give you some ideas, or leads, or contacts. (And it sounds like what you want to do is fascinating -- good luck!)
posted by occhiblu at 1:58 PM on February 12, 2007

...and it would be unethical for any of them to prevent you from competing in their market.
posted by flabdablet at 2:20 PM on February 12, 2007

A friend of mine is a corporate accountability consultant. She came from a background in International Relations and Political Science. Her job involves meeting with business leaders, lawyers and PR with the final goal of helping the client become more aware of the impact of their decisions (environmentally, socio-economically, etc). You might try poking around here for starters.
posted by |n$eCur3 at 2:45 PM on February 12, 2007 [1 favorite]

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