- Curricular Initiatives
- The Botwinick Prize in Business Ethics
- The KPMG Peat Marwick / Stanley R. Klion Forum
- The Paul M. Montrone Seminar Series on Ethics
- Military Initiative Programming
- Leadership and Ethics Week
- Diversity and Inclusion for All
- Leadership Conference
- Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Academic Conference
- Restoring Trust: New Realities and New Possibilities for Business Leadership
- Conscious Capitalism: How Ethical Executives Move the Needle Forward, One Business Decision at a Time
- Lucy Quist: A Global Role Model for Business Leadership
- Two Industry Pioneers Lead the Change for Clean Energy
- The Great Debate on the Ethics of Pricing in the Drug Industry
- Leading With Courage: Top Industry Trailblazers Discuss Pathways to Restoring Trust in Business
- Innovation and the Value of Privacy
- Events Calendar
- Ethical Insights
- Support Us
Public trust in government and business has been floundering since the 2008 financial crisis, but the 2016 US presidential election has thrust this issue into the national spotlight. On Friday, the Sanford C. Bernstein & Co. Center for Leadership and Ethics hosted a conference to understand why trust has eroded over the years and what business leaders can do to help restore it.
“[After the 2008 financial crisis], people were looking to business for a voice, and the view of many people was that business just did not want to have a voice,” said Bruce Kogut, the Sanford C. Bernstein & Co. Professor of Leadership and Ethics and director of the Bernstein Center. “We created a platform to be a leading forum on what was going on and hoped that these discussions and debates could then give direction on where we should go regarding financial markets, privacy, inclusive growth, or building trust.”
The event included four panels comprising leaders from sports, entrepreneurship, and industry, as well as a keynote address from Lucy Quist, managing director of Ghana-based cellular network Airtel Ghana, who spoke about the importance of corporations giving a real face and voice to their leadership. “You can’t be credible on a hill. You have to be credible where people can feel your presence,” she said. “You have to be the voice they expect to hear when they feel their company is with them.”
The lively first panel, “Trust in the Business Side of Sports,” featured Sunil Gulati (’86GSAS), president of US Soccer, and David Stern (’66LAW), commissioner emeritus of the NBA, talking about the role of sports organizations in adapting to new realities — such as players wanting to sit, kneel, or link arms during the national anthem in signs of protest or solidarity — while maintaining the integrity of the game. The panel was moderated by Steven Mandis, chairman and senior partner of Kalamata Capital and adjunct professor of finance and economics at Columbia Business School.
Left to right: panelists David Stern (’66LAW), commissioner emeritus of the NBA, and Sunil Gulati (’86GSAS), president of US Soccer, spoke with moderator Steven Mandis, chairman and senior partner of Kalamata Capital and adjunct professor of finance and economics at Columbia Business School.
Next came “Amazing Start-Ups: Building Trust through Inclusive Growth,” featuring Donnel Baird ’13, founder and CEO of BlocPower, and moderator Richard Witten (’75CC), founder and senior managing director of Columbia Entrepreneurship. Baird spoke about how social entrepreneurship can promote ethical corporate behavior and discussed the tension between doing so while also remaining profitable.
This was followed by “Trust in Industry,” featuring Alan Patricof ’57, co-founder and managing director of Greycroft LLC; James Rogers, former president, CEO, and chairman of Duke Energy; and Dr. Roy Vagelos (’54PS, ’83PS), chairman of the board at Regeneron and former chairman of the board and CEO of Merck & Co Inc. This panel highlighted some industries currently perceived by consumers as low on the trust scale — such as venture capital and big pharma — and tried to understand the disconnect between this perception and the amount of good many such corporations are doing around the world. The panel was moderated by Peter Stringham, former chairman and CEO of Young & Rubicam Group.
The final panel — moderated by Kathy Phillips, the Paul Calello Professor of Leadership and Ethics and Columbia Business School’s senior vice dean — was “The Narrative for Business Leadership” with Kesha Cash ’10, founder and general partner of Impact America Fund, and Lew Frankfort ’69, executive chairman and former CEO of Coach Inc. The panel attempted to map out a path for business leaders to offer that much-needed voice that Kogut said the public was yearning for.
“Big businesses are keeping quiet in the current climate. [But] their employees and the public want to hear their voices and demand to know what our business leaders are saying behind closed doors,” Kogut said. “More than ever, they have to speak up and engage in dialogue if we are to close the gap of trust.”
Bruce Kogut, the Sanford C. Bernstein & Co. Professor of Leadership and Ethics and director of the Bernstein Center.
Panelist Lew Frankfort agreed. “We have control over our own ecosystems, our own environments, and what has brought us to where we are today,” he said. “Values of inclusion, collaboration, trust, belief, [and] mission are deeply rooted in our society, our history, and in our own specific corporate cultures. More than ever we need to live these values and express them to our employees and others so that they do not lose faith.”
The Bernstein Center’s “Restoring Trust: New Realities and New Possibilities for Business Leadership” was held on Friday, November 18. For more information about the conference and to watch the archived livestream, visit http://www8.gsb.columbia.edu/leadership/events/conferences.