Business Ethics Week open to campus community
Business Ethics Week will bring the topics of corporate social responsibility and sustainability to center stage. The campus community is encouraged to participate in the week’s activities, Nov. 4-8.
The eighth annual Business Ethics Week, hosted by the Center for Ethics and Sustainable Business, will feature more than 30 open classroom discussions, 10 seminars led by prominent business leaders and the Ethics Case Study Games, in which student groups will debate the ethics of animal cloning.
Visiting speakers include San Francisco City Treasurer Jose Cisneros, Genentech’s Environmental Sustainability Manager Katie Excoffier and Bank of San Francisco Director Ed Obuchowski.
Associate Professor of Management Denise Kleinrichert, chair of the Business Ethics Week faculty committee, spoke with University Communications about Business Ethics Week:
University Communications: What does it mean to be an ethical business?
Denise Kleinrichert: Businesses have a responsibility to protect their employees, customers, stakeholders, suppliers and neighbors, anyone who could be impacted by their operations. Do no harm, that’s the goal.
An ethical business is proactive about supporting their community. Maybe that means giving employees lunch vouchers to other local businesses or becoming more sustainable by adding compost bins in the office. It’s about integrating ethical practices into the everyday life of the company.
UC: How does Business Ethics Week teach ethics?
DK: The visiting speakers come from so many different fields, pharmaceutical, banking, tech, finance, marketing, real estate, and in each of those industries there are different ethical challenges. Each guest speaker illustrates his or her own ethical decision-making process. They can share the experience of owning a business, the pressures to earn a profit and the tough decisions they came up against in their real lives.
UC: What can the public gain from Business Ethics Week?
DK: During Business Ethics Week we try to take the ethical principles out of the textbook and into the real world. The real world isn’t ideal, but it’s not a nightmare where all the CEOs are villains either. We bring in business leaders who are doing it right, people who can talk about how a commitment to ethics has actually paid off. This is an opportunity to come face to face with industry experts, listen to their understanding of ethical business practices and ask questions.
UC: How has the study of business ethics changed in the last five years?
DK: A couple years ago everyone was talking about finance, the spotlight was on Wall Street, but the conversation about ethics evolves every year. During Business Ethics Week we want to get people talking about what it means to be an ethical business, a responsible business or a sustainable business.
Two areas where we’re seeing a lot of activity right now are in the technology and apparel manufacturing industries. Outsourcing and factory conditions have become a big issue. It’s unethical when an American company sends their manufacturing overseas and overlooks the dangerous working conditions. That’s something the company should be held accountable for.
People are also talking about privacy issues right now. Companies can now purchase databases of information about potential customers. They may not know you personally, but they know your computer, your IP address, your cell phone location, and this is where the ethical questions come in. Are we going too far? How can we protect customer privacy?
For more information about Business Ethics Week and the complete schedule of events, visit http://cob.sfsu.edu/cob/sustainable-center/business-ethics/2013