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Craig Barrett, retired CEO and Chairman of the Board of Intel Corporation, was the 2009 recipient of the Botwinick Prize in Business Ethics. A leading advocate for improving education in the U.S. and around the world, he is passionate about the role technology can provide in raising social and economic standards globally.
He spoke to Jackson Hewett '10 of the Sanford C. Bernstein Student Leadership and Ethics Board about receiving the award:
It’s great to be a representative of Intel. It’s really an award for Intel and its ethics over its 40 year existence and I’m just glad to be a representative.
What has been your biggest ethical challenge over your career?
It’s tough to pick out one. There are some that have been very public. The Pentium flaw back in 1993, when we chose to replace all of our product in the market, cost the company $500 million. That was a very public decision but there are lots of decisions that never reach the public eye where we decide we’ll do this rather than do that.
What event are you most proud of?
I think I am most proud of the work we have done in the manufacturing area where we went against the grain in the United States in the mid 80s about keeping manufacturing in the United States. [It was] really a precursor to today’s major discussion but we decided to turn our corporation from an engineering corporation into a manufacturing powerhouse and compete with Japanese firms. And were successful in doing so.
What do you think are the key things you can do as a manager or as an employee to help instill an ethical culture?
It starts at the top and then the CEO has to role model how they want the firm to behave and then you have to train your employees in the right behavior. At Intel we make each of our employees go through every year a training on our code of conduct - the ethics we have in the corporation. It’s constant reinforcement but also leadership from the top.
What do you think is the most important ethical or leadership challenge facing firms today?
I think its going to be probably related to the increasing role that government is having in business. Governments pass rules, regulations, laws that impact businesses and they’re not always wise laws, unfortunately. But I think the business community and its leaders have to speak up when they see something unwise happen and I think it’s an increasing challenge for business leadership going forward.
What advice would you give to MBA students as they head into the world on how to position themselves in terms of ethics?
I think there’s been enough press in the last year or so associated with the financial meltdown, the so-called corporate greed, that there’s a lesson to be learned for every aspiring MBA student heading into the world today. It’s possible to make a very good living and be very, very successful without taking advantage of others and without taking undue risk. That lesson should be well learned by now and I’d be surprised if many MBA graduates aren’t aware of that.
The Benjamin Botwinick Prize in Business Ethics is awarded to an individual or representative of a business organization exemplifying the highest standard of professional and ethical conduct. Previous recipients have included Jeff Immelt, CEO of GE, Patrick Cescau, CEO of Unilever, and Lord John Browne of BP.