Global Ethics Forum promotes responsible business

By Stephen Brown
14 Jul 2011

The Global Ethics Forum has wound up two days of recent meetings in Geneva with the presentation of proposals to develop responsible business practices, ranging from an innovative social investment product to promoting study on ethics in business schools.

Gathering at the United Nations in Geneva, the Forum brought together more than 200 participants from all parts of the world to forge new ways of developing responsible business ethics in a rapidly-changing world.

One of the proposals that emerged from discussions in 12 workshops was for regulations to constrain wealthy individuals to contribute to socially-responsible investment. Another was to address deficits in the culture of business schools to make clear that issues of management go beyond traditional business approaches.

The Forum is a project of the Globethics.net Foundation, a global network that promotes the exchange of insights and research on ethics and values between experts, institutions and individuals.

The 2011 June/July gathering was part of a three-year project (2011-2013) involving further events, research, exchange in online workgroups, and online documentation and publication.

“It has not just been a conference but a platform where participants can continue to cooperate,” said Professor Dr Christoph Stückelberger, the Executive Director and Founder of Globethics.net. “We want to be a place of exchange, working on concrete projects around specific issues.”

A set of online workgroups will promote reflection on the proposals that came out of the Forum, in advance of the next Global Ethics Forum on 28-29 June 2012. “We want to be an inclusive platform for the further strengthening of these efforts,” said Stückelberger.

Participants will have access to more than 700’000 documents in the digital library of Globethics.net, including a Special Collection on Business and Economic Ethics, launched during the Forum.

Vasanthi Srinivasan, the co-director of Globethics.net India, described one result of the Global Ethics Forum as being the emergence of common issues that transcend regions, such as the role of women as economic actors.

She said that the agenda that has emerged from the Forum following the global financial crisis is characterised by “interdependency” between the Global North and South. “Whether it is the supply chain, financial movements, or standards for business, there are more spaces for collaboration and interdependency,” said Srinivasan, who is Director of the Centre for Corporate Governance and Citizenship at the Indian Institute of Management, in Bangalore, India.

On the second day of the Forum, participants heard an appeal from an international expert on responsible leadership for a change in the dominant global narrative based on the primacy of economic growth.

Mark Drewell, chief executive of the Brussels-based Globally Responsible Leadership Initiative, described as economic illiteracy, “the idea that you can have perpetual growth on a finite earth”. Things that create genuine happiness - such as love, community, meaningful work, learning new things, and serving others - are missing from the narrative of economic growth, he stated.

Drewell urged efforts to design an economic system to guarantee that business acts ethically, while leaders need to demonstrate entrepreneurship, leadership and a commitment to shared values. “If you can create an organisation that is vision-based around the common good and driven by values, it will always do well,” said Drewell.

Globethics.net is a global (online) network of 25,000 individuals and 140 institutions from all sectors of society and from more than 200 countries. It has a special focus on business ethics, responsible leadership and interreligious ethics.

The agency seeks to strengthen ethical dialogue, reflection and action on a global level and with a special focus on emerging and developing countries.

[Ekk/3]

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