This month, the Student Leadership and Ethics Board (SLEB) of The Bernstein Center brought together industry practitioners, distinguished academics, and students for its annual Leadership and Ethics Week. The week featured insightful conversations dedicated to grappling with and working through the world’s most vexing ethical dilemmas alongside current business leaders.
Here are some highlights from the week featuring relevant book suggestions, article recommendations, and notable quotes that will inspire you on your ethical leadership journey.
Ethical Design in Technology
Dan Wang, CBS associate professor of business, and Marissa Guiang ’22 dialogued about the ethical predicaments in technology, specifically speaking to building innovations with fairness and transparency at the heart of their algorithms.
To learn more about the collision of ethics and artificial intelligence, Professor Wang suggests diving into these books:
- Robot Ethics 2.0 by Patrick Lin, Ryan Jenkins, and Keith Abney
- Changing Your Company from Inside Out by Gerald Davis and Christopher White
- Algorithms of Oppression by Safiya Umoja Noble
- The Ethical Algorithm by Michael Kearns and Aaron Roth
What is the Business Case for Solving Global Problems?
Co-founder of Healthynest and Founder of Happy Family Brands Shazi Visram ’04 chatted with Bernstein Faculty Director and CBS Associate Professor of Management Modupe Akinola about her foray into social entrepreneurship motivated by her friends who recently became mothers. Watch the energetic conversation about her passion to change the trajectory of children’s health through nutrition by building a socially conscious brand from the ground up (begins at 4:20).
The Ethics of ESG Investing and Branding
The “who, when, and how” around ESG is a mammoth conversation for organizations around the globe. Alex Friedman ’98 JD/MBA, CEO and co-founder of Novata, and Mark Zurack, CBS senior lecturer in discipline in business, dove into the topic with moderator Sam Sonenshine ’23 and imparted words worth noting:
Alex Friedman: “Twenty-five years in the business world has given me perspective on the interconnectedness of things. My generation grew up with the Milton Friedman school of shareholder supremacy—the job of a company is to maximize profits for its owners.
Now we are grappling with a series of tragic common outcomes, the climate crisis being the most pronounced. We can't view the challenges we face in isolation; we can't just say ‘I'm in one vertical, the rest don't apply’.
The different dimensions of life need to work together, so the ESG for me is about all the elements that the company stands for: its employees, its owners, the physical environment. It either contributes to the positive tilt toward justice in the world or detracts from it.”
Mark Zurack: “The industry has gotten enough press and enough credibility that companies worry about the way they're viewed on an ESG basis, and to me that's significant. The difficulty is when you use the term ESG, you're working your way into something very broad. If a company focuses on one aspect of ESG then it may not result in them being viewed on a broad ESG basis because there are so many factors in how a company is rated. It's hard to move the needle, but the trend has affected the companies with lowly ESG ratings because it's given them some impetus to improve their lot.”
The Evolution of Sustainability in Business
Bruce Usher, professor of professional practice, and Matt Rosenbaum ’22, co-founder of Generation Conscious, a sustainable personal care and laundry company, had a riveting discussion around climate change and the opportunities it presents to the business world. The conversation made clear that businesses can change the course of the climate crisis, but that the clock is ticking on how much time is left for leaders to make a significant dent in the issue.
Professor Usher urges everyone to learn more about the intersection of climate and business by reading these newsletters:
Affordable Housing and Housing Insecurity
Affordable housing and people experiencing homelessness is a severe and growing challenge in the United States. A panel of industry and academic experts debated the causes of this issue as well as what is being done to improve it from a policy and free-market perspective. Watch the panel discussion featuring Dr. Jill Khadduri, Principal Associate, Social and Economic Policy, Abt Associates, Brendan O’Flaherty, Professor of Urban Economics, Columbia University, Dr. Jonathan Woetzel, Director and Senior Partner, McKinsey Global Institute, McKinsey & Company, Jennie Nevin, Associate Partner, McKinsey & Company, and moderated by Tom Goldenberg ’22.
The Future of Leadership and Ethics at CBS and Beyond
Costis Maglaras, the Dean of Columbia Business School, spoke intimately with students about his ideas on ethical leadership and his vision to infuse business and society themes throughout the curriculum at Columbia Business School.