Why saying ‘I’m sorry” isn’t good enough: The ethics of corporate apologies


Ethics and Business Law

Date of this version


Document Type



Governance, apologies, ceo, trust, character, empathy, responsiblity


The number of corporate apologies has increased dramatically during the past decade. This paper goes beyond the public relations and management literature concerning CEO apologies because it delves into the ethics of CEO apologies. The paper begins by positing some ways in which public apologies on the part of a representative (CEO) of a collective (the firm) differ from private interpersonal apologies. Then the paper attempts to ground desirable elements of an apology in the nature or essence of the apology itself. In making this case, I explore the largely ignored role played by the speaker’s ethos and by audience pathos in genuine or ethical apologies and suggest that attention needs to be paid to the problems “role contamination” poses for CEO apologizers. The paper concludes

Published in

Business Ethics Quarterly

Citation/Other Information

23(2), 239-268. 10.5840/beq201323216.