Opus College of Business launches institute to help companies assess, improve their ethical conduct

Opus College of Business launches institute to help companies assess and improve their ethical conduct

The Opus College of Business at the University of St. Thomas is launching a new organization, the SAIP Institute, that will help companies assess and enhance their ethical conduct.

The institute will promote a proprietary method, the Self-Assessment and Improvement Process (SAIP), that is modeled after the corporate-appraisal method pioneered by the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Program. The SAIP extends the Baldrige approach to the areas of business ethics, governance and social responsibility.

“Like the Baldrige process, the SAIP can be a real eye-opener for organizations, helping them address current ethical issues and prepare for emerging ones,” said T. Dean Maines, one of the SAIP’s developers and president of the SAIP Institute. “It highlights an organization’s strengths and weaknesses and facilitates continual improvement, allowing companies to systematically examine and improve the processes and practices that drive stakeholder relations.”

Maines is a former human resource executive with Cummins Inc.; since 2001 he has served within the Opus College as the research associate to the Koch Chair in Business Ethics.

“A number of ethics assessment tools are entering the marketplace,” noted Dr. Christopher Puto, dean of the Opus College of Business. “The SAIP is unique because it focuses not only on assessing corporate performance, but improving it.

“The SAIP Institute is in a position to become a national leader in this area. Its partnership with the Opus College of Business will help ensure that SAIP continues to combine practicality with intellectual rigor.”

Joining Maines at the new institute will be SAIP co-developer Arnold Weimerskirch, who was vice president for quality at Honeywell and formerly chaired the panel of judges for the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award. Weimerskirch will serve as an executive fellow within the organization.

The institute, which receives financial support from the Pennsylvania-based Halloran Foundation, will be housed on St. Thomas’ downtown Minneapolis campus. An advisory board for the organization will be named later this year.

The SAIP Institute’s creation gives the Opus College of Business two organizations dedicated to helping businesses with ethical matters. Founded in 1978, the Center for Ethical Business Cultures (CEBC) offers educational, training, and consulting services that help business leaders create ethical and profitable enterprises.

The SAIP Institute will complement CEBC’s efforts by helping executives measure and manage the underlying processes that drive responsible business conduct. CEBC leaders participated in reviews of the SAIP’s development, and the two organizations will continue their close collaboration.

One business leader whose organization tested an early design of the SAIP believes the process is valuable.

"The SAIP helped us look at our business through a different lens, and provided context for decisions about how we interact with key stakeholders," said Sam Richter, president of the James J. Hill Reference Library, a St. Paul organization that specializes in creating national online business information programs for entrepreneurs and small business. 

"Because of the process, we are better able to choose and serve our strategic partners, vendors, and clients based on a set of ethical criteria, and we've created a values standard our employees embrace which has helped us attract and retain a world-class team," Richter said.

The SAIP helps companies identify needed improvements in relations with customers, employees, investors, suppliers, competitors and communities. It also leads organizations to consider how well they are complying with legal and regulatory requirements. The process is available in three versions, which differ in their complexity and the thoroughness of the assessment process.

Maines said the new institute will focus on three areas: licensing the SAIP to independent consulting practices; improving the SAIP based on feedback from users; and helping other business schools incorporate the SAIP into their curricula.

Universities now using the SAIP include the Rome-based Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas (the Angelicum), which draws professors and students from around the globe.

The SAIP Institute also expects to directly administer the process within a limited number of firms and to explore new applications for the SAIP method.

The SAIP’s origins date to 2000 with the creation of a development team led by Harry Halloran Jr., chairman and CEO of American Refining Group Inc. In addition to Halloran, Maines, and Weimerskirch, the developers included Charles Denny Jr., former chair and CEO of ADC Telecommunications; Dr. Kenneth Goodpaster, holder of the Koch Chair in Business Ethics at St. Thomas; Clinton Larson, former corporate vice president of worldwide operations at Honeywell; Timothy Greene, managing director of GCR Advisors; and Lee Kennedy, director for Asia Pacific within 3M’s global business processes organization.

The group spent two years developing the SAIP concept into a process that entails data collection, scoring, feedback and action. Prototype designs were tested from 2002 to 2005, and over the past 18 months the SAIP has been revised to incorporate lessons learned from these initial applications.

For more information about SAIP, call the institute at (651) 962-4261; e-mail Maines at tdmaines@stthomas.edu; or visit the Web site at https://www.stthomas.edu/cob/about/ethics/resources/saip.html.