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2023/2024  BA-BHAAV2274U  Apple, Amazon, Alibaba: The Ethics of Digital Business

English Title
Apple, Amazon, Alibaba: The Ethics of Digital Business

Course information

Language English
Course ECTS 7.5 ECTS
Type Elective
Level Bachelor
Duration One Quarter
Start time of the course Second Quarter
Timetable Course schedule will be posted at calendar.cbs.dk
Max. participants 60
Study board
Study Board for BSc in Economics and Business Administration
Course coordinator
  • Hannah Tucker - Department of Business Humanities and Law (BHL)
Main academic disciplines
  • Entrepreneurship
  • Philosophy and ethics
  • Management
Teaching methods
  • Blended learning
Last updated on 17-02-2023

Relevant links

Learning objectives
  • Identify and compare different ethical perspectives in business
  • Explore the competitive dynamics of digital businesses and the ethical dilemmas they create
  • Analyze the internal and external factors that shape the decisions digital businesses make on ethical questions
  • Apply relevant ethical perspectives to emerging challenges in digital business
  • Generate management-relevant insights into the ethical dilemmas faced by digital businesses using the frameworks and theories presented in the required reading
Apple, Amazon, Alibaba: The Ethics of Digital Business:
Exam ECTS 7,5
Examination form Home assignment - written product
Individual or group exam Individual exam
Size of written product Max. 15 pages
Assignment type Case based assignment
Release of assignment The Assignment is released in Digital Exam (DE) at exam start
Duration 72 hours to prepare
Grading scale 7-point grading scale
Examiner(s) One internal examiner
Exam period Winter
Make-up exam/re-exam
Same examination form as the ordinary exam
Course content, structure and pedagogical approach

Digital formats have allowed companies like Apple, Amazon, and Alibaba to scale quickly and expand globally, making them some of the largest companies in the world. These rapidly growing businesses have changed the way people live, work, and interact with the world around them. As these businesses grow, they present new ethical dilemmas for entrepreneurs, managers, regulators, and consumers. This course provides students with an opportunity to consider why digital businesses present new ethical dilemmas and explore how managers and entrepreneurs can apply business ethics to emerging dilemmas in digital business management. Students will have the opportunity to explore the ethical dilemmas around issues like artificial intelligence, speech on digital platforms, regulating gig workers, winner-take-all markets, big data, and gender disparities in Silicon Valley. Students in Apple, Amazon, Alibaba will explore digital and platform businesses, ethical decision-making in management, and the social issues that emerge as the influence of digital businesses grows.


This course explores how perspectives from business ethics including virtue ethics, deontology, utilitarianism, and deconstruction can provide insight into ethical behavior. The class explores the extent to which ethical principles ought to vary in digital and global contexts. While the course does not provide a prescriptive guide to ethical behavior, it introduces students to a set of frameworks they can apply to the practical ethical dilemmas they will face as they engage with digital businesses in the future.


Using the Harvard Business School case study method, students will discuss real-life ethical dilemmas for businesses, identify and weigh the relevant information, and present options for the future. By the end of the class, students will be able to analyze the ethical dilemmas created by digital businesses and present informed assessments of the potential impact of management decisions on relevant stakeholders. Apple, Amazon, Alibaba explores issues around regulation, community management, and quality control that managers of digital businesses must take seriously.

Description of the teaching methods
The course is based on a combination of debate exercises, lectures, and case-based discussions in smaller groups.
Feedback during the teaching period
Office hours.
Feedback on case discussions.
Exam feedback: expectation horizon, best practice answers, and frequent mistakes.
Students who participate in the in-class debate will receive written comments from their instructor to their debate groups.
Student workload
Lecture Hours 20 hours
Case and Debate Discussion 18 hours
Lecture Preparation 70 hours
Preparation for Case and Debate Discussion 90 hours
Examination 10 hours
Expected literature
  • Harvard Business School case studies (to be downloaded.)
  • Aristotle (1984) ‘Eudemian Ethics’ and Nicomachean Ethics’ in Jonathon Barnes (ed.) Complete Works of Aristotle (vol. 2). Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.
  • Bentham, J. (1789/2001) ‘An Introduction to the Principles of Morals and Legislation in Selected Writings on Utilitarianism. Ware: Wordsworth.
  • Eisenmann, T., Parker, G., & Van Alstyne, M. W. (2006). Strategies for Two-Sided Markets. Harvard Business Review84(10), 92.
  • Evans, D. S. (2012). Governing Bad Behavior by Users of Multi-Sided Platforms. Berkeley Technology Law Journal, 27(2), 1201–1250.
  • Frederick, Robert E. (1999). A Companion to Business Ethics. Oxford: Blackwell Publishers.
  • Hsieh, N. (2017). The Responsibilities and Role of Business in Relation to Society: Back to Basics? Business Ethics Quarterly, 27(2), 293–314.
  • Jones, C., Parker, M., & Bos, R. ten. (2005). For Business Ethics. Routledge
  • Kant, I. (1785/1996) ‘Groundwork of the metaphysics of morals’ in Practical Philosophy (Cambridge Edition of the Works of Immanuel Kant), trans. Mary Gregor. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • Mill, J. S. (1863) Utilitarianism. London: Parker, Son, and Bourn.
  • Schumpeter, J. A. (1976 [1943]). Capitalism, Socialism and Democracy. 5 ed. London: George Allen & Unwin Ltd.
  • Solomon, R. C. (2003). Victims of Circumstances? A Defense of Virtue Ethics in Business. Business Ethics Quarterly, 13(1), 43–62.
  • Srnicek, N. (2017). Platform Capitalism. John Wiley & Sons.
  • Zhu, F., & Iansiti, M. (2019). Why Some Platforms Thrives... and Others Don't: What Alibaba, Tencent, and Uber Teach us about Networks that Flourish. The Five Characteristics that make the Difference. Harvard Business Review97(1), 118-125.


Last updated on 17-02-2023