Students to explore business ethics November 5 - 9

SF State's College of Business prepares students to become business leaders who also know how to address social issues in the workplace and their community. That focus on social good will be highlighted from Nov. 5 – 9 during the seventh annual Business Ethics Week, a series of discussions, classroom exercises and presentations on the topics of business ethics and environmental sustainability.

"Our purpose in organizing Business Ethics Week has always been to provide resources and learning opportunities to students," said Assistant Professor of Management Denise Kleinrichert, who led faculty planning of the events. "The week is also a great showcase to alumni and the business community, but we primarily focus on the students -- how do we get them more engaged in business ethics?"

Photo of a class at the Downtown Campus

During the week, faculty from all departments in the College of Business will incorporate business ethics topics into their lectures and classroom activities. Some classes will examine case studies of companies that have developed sustainability initiatives or "Chief Ethics Officer" roles in their companies, while others will examine how employees have created grassroots culture changes within organizations. Labor and environmental regulations, the financial crisis and the impacts of globalization will also be discussed.

"The future of business belongs to companies that can address society's real needs," said Associate Professor of Management Bruce Paton. "There's still a very strong perception that businesses have to choose between profits and protecting the environment or addressing social issues. That's dead wrong."

The highlight of the week will be a series of daily public discussions and presentations by industry leaders who have incorporated ethical and sustainable practices into their businesses. Presentations will be given in the Library and at the Downtown Campus by representatives of companies including Safeway, Holland America Cruises and HIP Investor Inc. Entrepreneurial groups with an emphasis on solving social problems will also be involved, including One Laptop Per Child, Whirlwind Wheelchairs and Kiva.

Notable speakers include R. Paul Herman, who advises businesses on the HIP (Human Impact & Profit) method to use sustainability practices to drive profits, and Kohl S. Gill, the president and Founder of LaborVoices, Inc., a supply-chain management and anti-trafficking startup company.

"The important thing to highlight for students is that business isn’t just the Wall Street mentality," said Kleinrichert.

The history of business sustainability and ethics at SF State runs deep. For 25 years, the College of Business has required all graduate and undergraduate students to take a course on business and society. In 2007, the College launched a Sustainable Business emphasis in its MBA program, the first of its kind in the California State University system. In 2011, SF State's sustainable MBA program was ranked 13th in the U.S. and 16th in the world among similar programs by the Aspen Institute, an educational and policy studies nonprofit.

Business Ethics Week will also draw on the Bay Area's role as a leader in social entrepreneurship, corporate social responsibility and shareholder activism.

"We've got all the pieces here. Bay Area businesses care about these issues and want to hire people that know how to address them," Paton said.

"It's absolutely a good networking opportunity for students," said Kleinrichert. "They will have a chance to ask questions of these industry leaders and speak with them on a one-on-one basis."

Click to view a schedule of events for Business Ethics Week 2012

-- Philip Riley