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By Sam Longair '18
October 25, 2017
As part of the Bernstein Center’s ongoing commitment to provide its Student Leadership and Ethics Board members with ethical leadership development, I was fortunate enough to receive support to attend the 2017 annual conference of the Society for Business Ethics. I was interested in exploring what a meeting predominantly geared towards academics would say in regards to business ethics, rather than what practitioners had to say to business school students on the matter. I left with a renewed appreciation for the emphasis that Columbia Business School places on bridging theory and practice, and the role of the Bernstein Center in bringing that philosophy into the realm of ethics.
Some of the presentations I attended I found hard to identify the key takeaways, for example an exploration of what the central characters of three fiction books from the mid-1900s could tell us about corporate governance. Other sessions though had a much clearer tangible application. I attended a panel where two chief ethics officers debated the role businesses should take in the formation of public policy, a discussion which was far richer for having two individuals with well-informed but very different perspectives addressing an emotive topic with no clear answer. In another session, an ethicist from the University of Southern California addressed issues in regards to whether companies could and should be designated immoral, and consequently, whether it was necessarily immoral to invest in their stock. This is an important albeit opaque topic and one in which I believe our understanding as business leaders directly benefits from academic insights from the fields of philosophy and sociology.
“I left with a renewed appreciation for the emphasis that Columbia Business School places on bridging theory and practice, and the role of the Bernstein Center in bringing that philosophy into the realm of ethics..”
I came away from the conference with much food for thought as the Society for Business Ethics brought together engaging and insightful experts to address fascinating real-life ethical issues. And as we start to plan our programming for this academic year as the Student Leadership & Ethics Board, I find myself being inspired to bring together individuals from the academia and business worlds to bring both perspectives to the conversation. Events where we bring together our faculty and women and men in business offer the best setting for our community to understand research-backed frameworks and insights and how they apply to the real world. A good example of this would be our Montrone Seminar Series which brings together faculty and practitioners for a round table discussion on business ethics and the consequences of decisions with a small group of students. Most recently, we hosted Kimberly Strong, Chief Ethics and Compliance Officer for Con-Edison NYC, Inc. for an intimate dinner with students moderated by Professor Shiva Rajgopal, and the conversation was illuminating. We look forward to hosting similar events throughout the academic year, and are excited to host Georgia Papathomas, Vice President and Chief Information Officer of J & J Pharmaceutical and Professor David Miller, Ethicist for Citigroup in the coming weeks.
For more information, please feel free to visit our Student Leadership and Ethics Board homepage.