Ethical Business Cultures and Corporate Responsibility

By Ron James, UST Center for Ethical Business Cultures

Over the last few months, CEBC has sponsored two webinars and participated in a panel discussion hosted by the National Association of Corporate Directors (NACD). In reflection, three themes were highlighted: the importance of transparency, trust and truth in building high standards of ethics and integrity.

First, Kathleen Edmond, Bests Buy’s chief ethics officer, was featured in a webinar describing her journey in utilizing social media in creating transparent dialogues on ethics issues. She publicly blogs about ethical dilemmas faced by Best Buy as a means of encouraging conversations about these issues while providing some insight into Best Buy’s approach in addressing the issues. And yes, these conversations are viewed internally and externally. She found experts along the way to help her overcome her own limitations in using the medium and sharing its content. While she acknowledges disclosing ethical issues through social media isn’t for everyone, her key takeaway: transparency matters! (In the spirit of transparency, I serve on the Best Buy Board of Directors.)

Chad Brinsfield

Vince Therrien

Next, Chad Brinsfield, Ph.D., assistant professor in the Opus College of Business, and Vince Therrien, director of Communication and Learning, Ethics and Compliance at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Minnesota, were featured in a webinar examining whether or not trust in an organization is overrated. They explored research examining declines in trust in society; the myths and realities of trust; and how to measure, repair, build and maintain trust. Their conclusion: Trust is essential for leaders, groups and organizations. It is the bond that forms the basis of relationships and it can be a source of competitive advantage.

Finally, I joined a panel discussion hosted by the NACD featuring a top CEO focused on ethics, a former federal prosecutor turned ethics educator, a former judge now working on criminal justice reform and a former marketing executive now a felon convicted of fraud. We examined what causes companies, boards and executives to go wrong. A loss of one’s true ethical compass is often to blame. An individual - or an organization - can become so fixed on goals and recognition and rewards that follow, that it loses sight of the truth about integrity. The antidote: Tell the truth and surround yourself with people who will do the same.

This post comes from the latest edition of the CEBC Newsletter, The Business Ethics Exchange.