Conference to celebrate publication of landmark book

A conference to discuss and celebrate the publication of a landmark book, Corporate Responsibility: The American Experience, will be held Friday, Sept. 7, in the auditorium of Schulze Hall on the downtown Minneapolis campus of the University of St. Thomas.

The volume, just published by Cambridge University Press, is a first-of-its-kind effort that explores 200 years of American business, economic, social and political history. Its five authors are scholars from Georgia, Florida, Illinois, Massachusetts and Minnesota.

The conference’s opening speaker, General Mills CEO Ken Powell, wrote in the book’s forward: “It examines corporate responsibility with such impressive scope that it is certain to become a crucial resource for those passionate about the ability of business to make a difference in society.”

The book was commissioned and led by the Center for Ethical Business Cultures at St. Thomas’ Opus College of Business.

The rights and responsibilities of business have prompted intense debate since the advent of modern capitalism. The conference, like the book, examines: What is corporate responsibility? Where did this idea originate? How has it come to be a factor in business decision-making. The focus of the program is “to whom, for what and how is the modern corporation responsible?”

Former Medtronic CEO Bill George called the book a “powerful treatise on the obligations of corporations to serve the society that charters them.” Aron Cramer, president of the San Francisco-based Business for Social Responsibility, said it is a “sweeping historical perspective that enables us to understand the modern corporate responsibility movement.”

All members of the team who wrote the book will participate in the conference. They are Archie Carroll, University of Chicago; Kenneth Lipartito, Florida International University; James Post, Boston University; Patricia Werhane, DePaul University; and Kenneth Goodpaster, a business-ethics professor at St. Thomas and executive editor of the new book.

In addition to 119 images, the book includes references to Minnesota’s own business experiences. Speaking at the conference will be three former Minnesota business executives who will discuss the emergence and new directions of corporate responsibility in the state.

They are Nate Garvis, founder of Naked Civics and former vice president of government relations at Target; Mary Pickard, principal adviser with Adler LLC and former vice president for community affairs at the St. Paul Companies; and David Etzwiler, executive director of Decade of Discovery and former vice president of community affairs at Medtronic.