Sarah Ertelt

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Sarah is a junior intern, Honor Scholar, and Religious Studies major at DePauw from Fishers, Indiana.

Photo by Burst is licensed under CC0 Public Domain (via Pexels)

Corporate social responsibility (CSR), once seen as a sure indicator of a company’s intentions, is increasingly becoming a trend for all companies to adopt.  More and more, companies engage in CSR for their own benefit, and stakeholders are left unsure which companies participate for the right reasons. Corporate social responsibility is the branch of business that handles how a company upholds ethical standards, including sustainable sourcing, production, and corporate transparency, sometimes “going beyond” expectations to engage in community building projects. Research on the effectiveness of CSR has almost solely relied on signaling theory, which proposes that companies send positive signals to stakeholders (consumers, employees, investors, and communities) when they engage in CSR.

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"Boardroom Table" by K2 Space is licensed under CC BY 2.0 (via Flickr)

Suppose your boss asks you to fudge certain numbers on a business report on the same week the company is conducting layoffs. Is this an ethical dilemma, a financial dilemma, or seeing as it will affect your family, a social dilemma? Likely, all three are true, and more layers exist beneath the surface. Are you in debt from taking a luxurious vacation? Do you have children in college? Are you hoping to get a promotion soon? Research shows that navigating through these many layers makes it increasingly difficult to see the ethical dilemma. This describes “ethical fading”, the process by which individuals are unable to see the ethical dimensions of a situation due to overriding factors.

"Low angle view of office building" is licensed under CC0 Public Domain (via Pexels)

The study of business ethics has faced obstacles since its introduction to mainstream thought in the 1970’s and 80’s, finding no place in higher education and facing opposition from the core tenets of capitalism itself. According to Amitai Etzioni, a professor who taught ethics at Harvard Business School from 1987 to 1989, ethics was deemed incompatible with business. In an interview with Pacific Standard, Etzioni said financial analysts, economists, and marketers alike insisted that ethics was incompatible with profit: “We teach people how to put small toys into large boxes so they seem bigger. We put hot colors onto boxes to produce impulsive buying. If you want us to teach ethical behavior, we’re out of business.”

"Kindergarten" by Charlie Vinz is licensed under CC BY 2.0 (via Flickr)

In order to combat the “pervasive and underreported” bullying of Muslim children in public schools, the San Diego public school district’s board has launched a campaign to fight Islamophobia. As one of the largest public school districts in the country, San Diego has set an important precedent for other districts. For this reason, the decision, voted 4-0 on April 4, has received both praise and backlash on social media.

"Meeting with President of the Supreme Court Vyacheslav Lebedev" by the Kremlin is licensed under Creative Commons (via Google Images)

In April 1951, 9,000 Jehovah’s Witnesses boarded the Trans-Siberian railway and were sent to the far eastern corner of Russia, where they would effectively disappear. In both Nazi Germany and Stalinist Russia, Jehovah’s Witnesses were accused of being unpatriotic. Adherents to this sect of Christianity don’t vote, don’t attend patriotic statements that glorify violence, and don’t participate in war. In Nazi Germany, they refused to profess “Heil Hitler”, and now under Vladimir Putin, they refuse to join the Russian Orthodox Church or publicly oppose Syrian rebels. On April 20, Russia’s supreme court labeled Jehovah’s Witnesses an extremist group, putting them on the same level as other militant extremist groups like Al-Qaeda and IS. Russia’s supreme court ordered that the Jehovah’s Witnesses’ Russian headquarters be closed, as well as their 395 local chapters.

In the coming months, superhero fans of different races and genders are anxious to see new heroes from Marvel and DC that better represent diversity. The wait for diverse superheroes has been long, with the movie production world still dominated by white male production teams cranking out movies with white male leads. For example, out of 22 Marvel superheroes, only 7 are people of color. Out of 10 DC heroes, only 4 are people of color. None of these diverse heroes are playing a primary role, and many lack an authentic and detailed backstory.  

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"Holi" by Kapil Dev Singh is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0 (via Flickr)

Throughout the month of March, crowds of thousands will gather in Houston, Boston, and other cities around the United States to celebrate the Indian festival of Holi. Called the Festival of Colors, this holiday celebrates the arrival of spring, and is chiefly known for its tradition of participants throwing brightly colored powder on the crowded streets of India. However, there’s a cultural history that might be lost in the crowds of Americans eating Indian food and drenching each other in colored water. Is celebrating Holi in American festivals a victory for diversity, or is it cultural appropriation?

"Leaning tower of sugar" by tamdotcom is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 (via Flickr)

Despite small-scale efforts from restaurants in metropolitan areas to display calorie counts on menus and make smaller soda cups, the obesity rates in America haven’t changed much. Although obesity trends in most states have stagnated, the results of a food-obsessed culture are alarming. Since 1980, childhood obesity has tripled, and obesity rates among young teenagers aged 12 to 19 have quadrupled from five to 20 percent.

The average American gets 16% of their calories from added sugar. This startling statistic is 6% more than the Food and Drug Administration’s recommendation, and 11% percent higher than the World Health Organization’s maximum recommendation. Since sugar is known to contribute to the obesity epidemic, cities such as New York and Philadelphia are taking measures to help discourage excess sugar intake in consumers. However, a nationwide tax is likely needed to seriously fight obesity. What are the benefits and potential consequences of having a federal excise tax on sugar?

"Eiffel Tower" by nuno_lopes is licensed under CC0 Public Domain (via Pixabay)

In the summer of 2015, a lone gunmen massacred 38 tourists enjoying a sunny beach in Tunisia. Since this incident, many radical terrorists have been targeting tourist destinations for attacks, aiming to deter economic progress in these countries. These countries range from fragile Arab Spring nations attempting to progress economically, like Tunisia and Libya, to longstanding Western tourist destinations like France and Spain. Since tourism is an important part of the global economy, does the average traveler have a moral responsibility to ignore terror threats and continue traveling to potentially dangerous countries?

"Buddha" by Francis Chung via Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

In the beginning weeks of Donald Trump’s presidency, people of all faiths all over the world are asking the question, “How should our faith respond?” Buddhists are no exception to this. With important religious precepts centered on nonviolence and compassion, Buddhists are asking how they can apply their code of ethics to help those in need. Unique from other religions like Christianity and Islam, Buddhist texts and teachings make little reference to organized political or social activism. However, past historical figures like Mahatma Gandhi have used Buddhist precepts to dramatically change society. Gandhi used the profound principle of ahimsa, or nonviolence, to dismantle the British occupation of India. Once again, a turn to Buddhist principles is needed to encourage compassion in the unfolding months ahead.