You are here

Ethics and Leadership News

June 2, 2010

What Would You Do? Students' Ethical Decisions at NGOs

The Bernstein Student Leadership and Ethics Board hosted a student panel discussion on ethical dilemmas while working in government and with NGOs as part of Leadership and Ethics Month.

You work for an NGO that certifies fair trade products and find out that one of your certified suppliers in China employs underage workers...
You are consulting for an NGO that is considering making a generic form of a patented AIDS drug in South Africa...
You are in final discussions with national government officials in Russia and have been asked to pay a "transaction" fee into a personal bank account...

If you were confronted with one of those situations, what would you do? Unfortunately, for many Columbia MBA students it's not a theoretical question. While everyone can expect to come across ethical dilemmas at some point in his or her career, those who work with cultures that are not their own are often faced with an added level of complication, layering on the cultural paradigms through which business—and therefore ethical decisions—get done. We all know the imperative of adapting to a culture's social folkways and mores, but when it comes to ethics, is there an absolute standard—one that applies to all people, at all places, at all times? Or should we be following the toast of Stephen Decatur, U.S. Navy commodore during the War of 1812: "Our country! In her intercourse with foreign nations, may she always be in the right; but right or wrong, our country"?

At the student panel "Ethical Dilemmas at Government Institutions or NGOs," organized by the Student Leadership and Ethics Board as part of Leadership and Ethics Month and moderated by Professor Stephan Meier, five students addressed this question and others, through personal experiences in ethical decision making from their work at NGOs and government agencies around the world. Their stories provided the fodder for lively debate among audience members. The Chazen Web Journal retells three of their stories (names have been changed to protect students' identities). Read the article by Lauren Frasca '10.


Financial Innovation: A Risky Business?

Watch the trailer for our interactive debate exploring the value of financial markets, the interaction between government and innovation, and what role markets should play in society.

Expand >

This event was presented by Fred Friendly Seminars in partnership with the Sanford C. Bernstein & Co. Center for Leadership and Ethics, and was part of Columbia Business School’s Individual, Business and Society (IBS) curriculum.

< Collapse

2014 Klion Forum

When: April 15th, 2014 6:00 PM-8:00 PM
Where: 3022 Broadway
Calder Lounge, Uris Hall (1st Floor)
New York, NY 10027

Register Now >

Expand >

Join Ms. Denise Morrison, CEO of Campbell Soup, and Ms. Ellen Kaden, chief legal and government affairs officer of Campbell Soup, for a fireside chat moderated by Professor Bruce Kogut on board governance and maintaining high ethical principles in a competitive market.

< Collapse

Featured Video

With rapidly changing consumer tastes, many food companies are looking to expand their markets at home and overseas. How does an iconic American company stay relevant?

Featured Research

The Small Worlds of Corporate Governance
Identifies "structural breaks" — privatization, for example, or globalization — and assesses why powerful actors across countries behave similarly or differently in terms of network properties and corporate governance.


Program Brochure

View the Bernstein Center brochure, Ethical Challenges in Business