A Halifax professor of philosophy has joined Barack Obama on a list of the 100 most influential people in business ethics.

Chris MacDonald of Saint Mary’s University earned spot No. 81 on the business think-tank Ethisphere Institute’s list for his popular ethics blog, www.Businessethics.ca/blog.

“I’m keeping pretty swanky company these days,” MacDonald jokes. His blog grabs business stories as they fly through the news cycle and pauses to look at ethical issues that aren’t always obvious. Some of his favourite blogs have been about monkey waiters in Japan and the death of small book stores. He’s also written about “free trade” in Afghanistan, which includes buying the job of police chief.

MacDonald has been blogging faithfully for three years, making him a seasoned veteran in the
blogosphere. He started because he is interested in business ethics and because no one was blogging about it. “I kept assuming that others would jump on the bandwagon and I’d become irrelevant within a few months,” he said. So far, he’s pretty much the only regular business-ethics blogger and gets hundreds of hits a day.

“It’s my way of working through issues by talking out loud,” he says. “When a colleague e-mails me (business) stories, I blog my reaction and share it with a wider audience.”

He goes into the nature and justification for markets themselves and ethical constraints on how commerce is carried out. In the post-Enron world, there is no shortage of writing about business ethics. “What I like to do is take a story that doesn’t mention ethics and say, ‘But do you see the ethical issue here?’”

He says he understands that journalists have to be experts on three new topics a day, seven days a week, and don’t have the time or resources to take things to a deeper level: That’s when he steps in with his blog.

To celebrate his third “blogaversary” on Nov. 20 last year, MacDonald put together a greatest-hits list of posts. Go to the November 2008 archive and scroll down to the Nov. 20 issue to read his analysis of issues such as the “Tempest in a Timbit,” when a Tim Hortons employee was fired for giving a way a doughnut hole.

“The recognition that a blog of a certain kind could have some influence is a very nice thing,” he said.