Acting Out of Compassion, Egoism, and Malice: A Schopenhauerian View on the Moral Worth of CSR and Diversity Management Practices

Thomas Köllen

Publication: Scientific journalJournal articlepeer-review


In both their external and internal communications, organizations tend to present diversity management (DM) approaches and corporate social responsibility initiatives as a kind of morally ‘good’ organizational practice. With regard to the treatment of employees, both concepts largely assume equality to be an indicator (as well as a goal) of organizational ‘goodness’, e.g. in terms of equal treatment, or affording equal opportunities. Additionally, research on this issue predominantly refers to prescriptive and imperative moralities that address the initiatives themselves, and values them morally. Schopenhauer opposes these moralities by conceptualizing morality as exclusively being based on the incentives of acting instead of the actions themselves. He identifies egoism, compassion, and malice as the sole incentives for every human action, whereby only those actions solely motivated by compassion can be ascribed genuine moral worth. In this context, this article shows that from a Schopenhauerian perspective, CSR and DM initiatives only have a genuine moral worth in so far as the individuals who have initiated or supported their implementation were exclusively motivated by compassion. Stressing the narrative of a business case, if utilized as a façade for true compassion that attaches economic legitimacy to these initiatives, does not necessarily harm their moral worth. The approach and the findings developed in this paper contribute to the discourse on the ethical behavior of organizations, as well as to the discourse on CSR and DM.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)215 - 229
JournalJournal of Business Ethics
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2016

Austrian Classification of Fields of Science and Technology (ÖFOS)

  • 502052 Business administration
  • 506009 Organisation theory
  • 502026 Human resource management
  • 603103 Ethics
  • 502048 Business ethics

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