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Zealand wine industry to showcase that in many cases indi-

viduals’ values and beliefs are fundamental to promoting

sustainable initiatives and practices in the business arena.

Virtue Ethics and the Practice–Institution Schema

The theory of virtue ethics has received increasing atten-

tion from business and other applied ethicists in under-

standing as well as guiding ethical business conduct. In

Evolution in the Society for Business Ethics, Koehn (2010)

notes that the recent movement in business ethics has

shown more interest in virtue ethics (specific individual

virtues or quasi-virtues such as integrity, trust, and justice),

and that ethicists have been ‘‘more willing to let the phe-

nomena suggest possibly relevant standards or virtues in-

stead of applying pre-existing frameworks to problems’’ (p.

748). According to Hursthouse (1999), virtue ethics, fol-

lowing the thoughts of Plato and Aristotle, is an ethical

approach that emphasizes virtues and moral character.

Distinct from other moral theories, as noted by Arjoon

(2000), virtue theory ‘‘grounds morality in facts about

human nature, concentrates on habits and long-term goals,

extends beyond actions to comprise wants, goals, likes and

dislikes, and, in general what sort of person one is and aims

to be’’ (p. 173). Contemporary treatments of virtue ethics

aim not only to extend the approach to collectivities but

also to promote a range of practices that give substance to

such labels as openness and integrity.

In presenting an ‘‘Aristotelian approach’’ to business,

Solomon (2004) argues that the key to the application of

virtue theory to business ethics, is the consideration of ‘‘the

place of business in society.’’ He proposes that we under-

stand the place of business in society from a virtue ethics

perspective in which business is viewed as ‘‘a human in-

stitution in service to humans and not as a marvelous

machine or in terms of the mysterious ‘magic’ of the

market’’ (p. 1024). Using the Aristotelian concept of polis

(the larger community an individual belongs to), Solomon

argues that an individual’s virtue and character are em-

bedded in, and in service to, the larger community. Busi-

ness excellence is characterized by not only its superiority

in practice but also its role in serving larger social pur-

poses. Paramount to such conceptualization is the recog-

nition of the human features and aspects of business. For

Solomon, then, there is a clear yet often overlooked linkage

between the ethics of business and the ethics of human

virtue. Business and organizations are consequently de-

mystified as human enterprises.

Echoing Solomon, Geoff Moore’s approach to business

ethics also features a key emphasis on the influence of human

behavior in the business world. Drawing extensively from

Alasdair MacIntyre’s philosophical approach to ethics,

Moore’s understanding of business ethics places a focus on

how an individual’s virtuous conduct can bring out the hu-

man aspects of business (see: Moore 2002, 2005, 2008).

According to Moore, MacIntyre’s practice–institution

schema is a valid framework in understanding virtue ethics

and its application to business. MacIntyre defines practice as

Any coherent and complex form of socially estab-

lished cooperative human activity through which

goods internal to that form of activity are realized in

the course of trying to achieve those standards of

excellence which are appropriate to, and partially

definitive of, that form of activity, with the result that

human powers to achieve excellence, and human

conceptions of the ends and goods involved, are

systematically extended. (MacIntyre 1985, p. 187, as

cited in Moore 2002)

Central to MacIntyre’s conceptualization of practice is the

concern for ‘‘internal goods.’’ In MacIntyre’s notion of

practice, simply put, internal goods are about a person

feeling good about what he or she does and that such

feeling of ‘‘good’’ must be based on, and derived from, the

virtue and moral character of the individual. Business as

practice, then, is the consideration of business as a form of

such practice, where individuals in business should strive

to realize the ‘‘internal goods’’ about doing business and

achieve excellence through virtuous conducts.

68 Y. Wang et al.




In MacIntyre’s practice–institution schema, institutions,

on the other hand, are concerned with ‘‘external goods’’

such as money, power, and success. For Moore (2002), the

institutions can be viewed as a collective mechanism that

emphasizes the functionality of business as a profit-ori-

ented social economic entity. The fundamental character-

istic of institutions of business, therefore, is the pursuit of

financial gains, often at the expense of social performance.

However, just as institutions have the ability to set con-

straints, they also have the potential to nourish virtuous

acts and promote ethical business conduct. This happens

when one or more of the mechanisms safeguarding the

institutions—the pursuit of ‘‘external goods’’—can find

incentives and rationales to justify and encourage the

pursuit of ‘‘internal goods’’ at both individual and organi-

zational levels. These incentives and rationales, justifiable

as good practice, then become the driving force behind

business engagement with issues beyond the financial

bottom line and the movement toward sustainable social

and environmental practice. In CSR and sustainable de-

velopment literature, the argument for using mechanisms

of the institutions as a promoter for sustainable practice is

generically referred to as the ‘‘business case,’’ as it essen-

tially turns on the financial incentive of such practice.

While institutions can sustain good business practices,

they can also have corrupting power when the ‘‘external

goods’’ (incentives or rewards) no longer justify these


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