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Blade Runner - Business Ethics and the EnvironmentBlade Runner - Business Ethics and the Environment


Blade Runner (1982)


Famous for...

Being a science fiction classic but a financial flop (losing out to E.T. at the box office).


Set in...

Los Angeles, 2019.


Based on...

Philip Dick’s 1968 science fiction novel, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?

 Blade Runner - Business Ethics and the Environment


Ridley Scott (pictured right, also director of Alien, the classic horror film)



None but two nominations (art direction and visual effects).


Key characters

Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford, star of the Indiana Jones movies) - pictured right below.

Rachael (Sean Young), his lover.Blade Runner - Business Ethics and the Environment

Roy Batty (Rutger Hauer), a robot.

The story

Early in the 21st century the Tyrell Corporation created robots (known as Replicants). The latest model, the NEXUS 6, is at least as intelligent as humans, stronger and more agile, but supposedly without human emotions like love and hate.

The NEXUS 6 Replicants are used as slave labour to explore and colonize other planets (called Off-World). But six of them (three male and three female) come back to Earth, hoping to extend their usual four year lifespan.Blade Runner - Business Ethics and the Environment

Special policemen (blade runners) have been ordered to find and kill these Replicants.

In November 2019 Los Angeles is a ruined industrial wasteland with its downtown streets populated by the lower class dregs of society.

Nature has been destroyed by pollution, causing constant acid rain and fog. Because of a shortage of natural resources, people are being encouraged to live in Off-World.

A disillusioned ex-blade runner, Rick Deckard is ordered by his old police boss, Bryant, to kill four remaining rebel NEXUS 6 Replicants:Blade Runner - Business Ethics and the Environment

  • Zhora (a beautiful but dangerous brunette, pictured right above)
  • Leon (who has just killed his interrogator at the Tyrell Corporation headquarters).
  • Roy Batty (the leader).
  • Pris (a punkish blond prostitute, pictured right).

Deckard visits Dr. Eldon Tyrell, the corporation’s founder, to interrogate another NEXUS 6 Replicant (Tyrell’s beautiful secretary, Rachael).

Deckard has difficulty identifying her as a robot, because she appears “more human than human” (the corporation’s motto).Blade Runner - Business Ethics and the Environment

With Gaff (another blade runner, pictured right) Deckard takes photos from Leon's hotel room

Leon later says to Roy Batty how sad he is about this, because his photos are all that’s left of his past memories.

At his apartment Deckard cruelly tells Rachael she is a Replicant and was given her memories.

After a devastated Rachael leaves, Deckard discovers (in Leon's photos) a woman he presumes is Zhora, one of the Replicants he is hunting.

Meanwhile Tyrell’s genetic designer, J.F. Sebastian (pictured right below), has invited Pris into his apartment. He makes robotic toys to keep him company.Blade Runner - Business Ethics and the Environment

In a sleazy nightclub Deckard:

  • telephones Rachael to apologize.
  • sees Zhora who attacks him with superhuman strength.

He chases and kills her. Bryant congratulates him and tells him he must also kill Rachael who has disappeared.

Deckard spots Rachael in a crowd, but, before he can catch her up, he is attacked by Leon. But he is saved by Rachael who kills Leon.

In her apartment’s bathroom, Deckard's eyes glow, a distinctive Replicant characteristic (an unanswered question from the film is whether or not he is a Replicant).Blade Runner - Business Ethics and the Environment

He teaches Rachael (pictured right) how to kiss leading to a passionate love scene.

Roy Batty joins Pris at Sebastian's apartment, telling him they need help to extend their limited lives. Sebastian takes him to Eldon Tyrell

Roy kills:

  • Tyrell (because he refuses to help them live longer).
  • Sebastian (off-screen). Blade Runner - Business Ethics and the Environment

After discovering that Pris is in Sebastian’s apartment, Deckard goes there and is attacked by her. Having killed her, he has a long and vicious fight with Roy (pictured right) who puts a nail through his hand (signifying crucifixion) to slow down his rapidly approaching death.

Deckard ends up hanging precariously from a girder high above the street. But Roy’s feelings of hatred turn into compassion, and he lets him live.

Then Roy dies, and a white dove (signifying love, redemption and peace) is released.

Deckard returns to his apartment where he and Rachael say they love each other. He discovers that his fellow blade runner, Gaff, could have previously killed Rachael, but compassion had stopped him.

Deckard and Rachael leave together. 


Lessons for business ethics and the environment


1. Beware of genetic engineering

The Replicants are frighteningly human-like and have developed:Blade Runner - Business Ethics and the Environment

  • their own emotions like love, hate and memories - two Repicants, Roy and Rachael, show great love for Deckard, who might even have been a Replicant himself.
  • the ability to think for themselves (human beings' distinguishing feature according to the French philosopher, René Descartes, pictured right).

The film shows that the effects of technology depend upon how it is used. As Deckard tells Rachael technology is either a benefit or a hazard.


2. Principle before profitBlade Runner - Business Ethics and the Environment

Eldon Tyrell’s corporation:

  • makes Replicants for profit.
  • ignores the ethical and social problems they create.

The Replicants are angry because, as slaves, they have short and fearful lives.

 Blade Runner - Business Ethics and the Environment

3. Love plus philosophy equals wisdom

Deckard and Roy are both saved by:

  • love.
  • reflection on what’s important in life.


  • wanted to live longer (but was prepared to accept the inevitability of death). Blade Runner - Business Ethics and the Environment
  • wanted to be free (but, as a Replicant, lived in slavery).

Deckard says after his death:

“All he'd wanted were the same answers the rest of us want. Where do I come from? Where am I going? How long have I got?”

Deckard is saved from the his job's murderous turmoil  by the love of

  • Roy (who saves his life).
  • Rachael (see point 4).

 Blade Runner - Business Ethics and the Environment

4. Listen to your conscience

Deckard is deeply troubled and stressed by his murderous occupation. 

It is love (as shown by Roy and Rachael) that finally gives him:

  • peace of mind
  • redemption.

 Blade Runner - Business Ethics and the Environment

5. Save the soul

The film shows the importance of love, memories and community to the human soul:

  • the soulless, crime ridden city of Los Angeles shows how money, vice and greed can destroy people’s happiness.
  • genetic designer, J.F. Sebastian is well paid but lonely (with only his robotic toys for company). 

 Blade Runner - Business Ethics and the Environment

6. Go green

The world of 2019 is a polluted hell with shortages of natural resources.

Most animals are extinct, so robotic animals are popular!


Key quote on freedom

Quite an experience to live in fear, isn’t it? That’s what it is to be a slave, Roy Batty.


Key quote on genetic engineering

More human than human, the Tyrell Corporation’s motto.


Key quote on happiness

All he'd wanted were the same answers the rest of us want. Where do I come from? Where am I going? How long have I got?, Deckard (talking about Roy)


Key quote on death

All those moments will be lost like tears in rain, Roy (talking about his past just before he died)


Key quote on technology

Replicants are like any other machine. They are either a benefit or a hazard, Rick Deckard.


Two film websites to recommend

1. filmsite.org (run by Tim Dirks).

2. aveleyman.com (run by Tony Sullivan)

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