To equip students with updated knowledge of the best practices of international corporations, various MBA and EMBA programmes offered in Hong Kong have strengthened their emphasis on business ethics and corporate social responsibility (CSR). For example, a programme at University of Hong Kong (HKU) features courses on business law, ethics, corporate governance and CSR. Baptist University includes a seminar series focusing on these issues, with insights from prominent business leaders and scholars. The AGSM Hong Kong MBA Programme by the Australian School of Business at the University of New South Wales takes a systematic look at various best business practices, such as how to react in ethically ambiguous situations in the workplace. A range of issues such as workplace relations and professional conduct which are linked by business ethics as the common thread are also covered. A strong sense of ethics is crucial in Asia's business environment which has a high concentration of shared ownerships and family-controlled corporations, coupled with relatively underdeveloped capital markets and a lack of transparency. 'It is difficult to apply western ethical standards in this environment,' said Chris Chan, associate professor and director of MBA Programmes at HKU's Faculty of Business and Economics. Ethics are an essential element in HKU's MBA programme because about 80 per cent of graduates will continue to work in Asia, Dr Chan added. In view of the particular business environment in Asia, HKU's MBA programme has dedicated courses on business law, ethics, corporate governance and CSR. 'The advantage of a dedicated course on ethics is that it allows for more in-depth case studies and analysis,' Dr Chan said. The issue of CSR is often misunderstood. 'Corporate social responsibility should not be viewed as a cost centre. In fact it is an integral part of a corporation's business strategies. An adequate corporate social responsibility system can help enhance the financial viability of a business.' He cited as an example the hotel and resort group Banyan Tree, which has incorporated environmental conservation and sustainable economic development of local communities into its business. For the dedicated course offered by HKU's MBA programme, guest speakers are invited to share their insights and experience of CSR projects with students. They include the Sustainability Division of the HSBC Group, which recently launched the Green Credit Card campaign. HKU's programme also features a voluntary CSR training project in which various companies sponsor individual students to help villages in Yunnan province in the mainland to develop sustainable economic activities. 'Students help the villages identify business opportunities such as microfinance schemes. The ultimate goal is to improve the livelihood of the villagers,' Dr Chan said. To raise awareness of the ethical issues students of the MBA programme at Baptist University, who are mostly executives at the middle management level, the school invites business leaders and prominent scholars to share their views and experience in defining and dealing with ethical issues in the workplace. Bill Hung, associate MBA programme director of the School of Business at Baptist University said: 'In the flexible MBA Seminar Series, which focuses on the most urgent global economic issues, guest speakers discuss such topics as ethics and corporate social responsibility. The series also features a talk conducted by the Independent Commission against Corruption that uses actual cases in its presentation.' Ethics-related subjects in the MBA programme are highly rated by the students, Dr Hung added. Apart from ethics-focused courses, various MBA programmes integrate the subject into courses on specialised professional disciplines. For instance, the cases presented in the accounting course have ethical elements. In line with the rapid globalisation of the business world, the OneMBA Global Executive MBA programme of Chinese University encourages students recruited from different countries to consider issues of business ethics from a globalised perspective, said Alice Leung, the OneMBA programme manager at Chinese University's Faculty of Business Administration. 'We have built the topic of ethical issues into many subjects of the OneMBA programme,' she said. Chinese University co-organises the OneMBA programme with four overseas partner institutions. Bradley Erasmus, who graduated from Richard Ivey's EMBA programme in 2001, said ethics were integrated into most cases presented in the programme, and the cases featured business dealings in an international setting. 'They focused on how managers should handle themselves in an ethical manner in their dealings with staff, suppliers and clients.' As ethics vary from culture to culture, Richard Ivey's programme puts a strong emphasis on personal ethical standards, added Mr Erasmus, managing director at Ichor International Investments which provides investment and insurance services.