Business Ethics & Social Responsibility

06

Business ethics and social responsibility are topics of central importance in the work of the American National Business Hall of Fame. In addition to preserving the stories of our laureates, we have periodically conducted survey research to ascertain the general level of ethical beliefs in American business.

The most recent of those studies was completed in 2004 under the direction of Dr. Paul Thisthlethwaite, a professor of marketing at Western Illinois University.

The Ethical Views Business Leaders, University Faculty and Students in The United States.

Selected Years 1983 – 2003

See also, the articles on business ethics which appear in the
Journal of Business Leadership, Fall, 2000-2001.

There exist numerous additional sources on this topic. http://businessethics.resourceaid.com

One academic treatment that deserves special mention is William C. Fredericks. Values, Nature and Culture in The American Corporation. Oxford University Press, 1995. Professor Fredericks identifies values that humans bring to work and which determine the ethical climate within the corporation. The perspective which he provides explains why the founders of the American National Business Hall of Fame believed that preserving the stories of the leaders of the past should be part of the knowledge base of the business leaders of the future.

For a far simpler view of how our laureates thought about business ethics, view the hall of fame slide show on business ethics. You will find it on this web site.

Hall of fame laureates with stories that have a special ethical twist include

Mary Kay Ash Wayne Hummer
John Bogle James Lincoln
S. Truett Cathy Herbert Taylor
D.J. De Pree Marion Wade
Ken Hansen Ken Wessner

The Herbert Taylor story has an interesting “rest of the story” component. Taylor was an active member of Rotary International and served as its president. Rotary adopted Taylor’s “Four-Way Test” , thereby making the test an ethical guideline known by the more than a million Rotarians around the globe. Rotary, it turns out, has a complete ethics and social responsibility culture that mirrors the beliefs and practices of hall of fame laureates at their best. The Rotary culture contains the following elements (All elements have been trademarked by Rotary International).

  1. A broad vision of how to live one’s business life. This is captured

    by Rotary’s primary motto of “Service Above Self” and by the second part of the “Object of Rotary” which calls for, “ High ethical standards in business and professions; the recognition of the worthiness of all useful occupations; and the dignifying of each Rotarian’s occupation as an opportunity to serve society.”

  2. A penetrating “reason why” one should follow that broad vision. This is captured by Rotary’s secondary motto of “They Profit Most Who Serve The Best”. Hall of fame laureates knew that this viewpoint has double meaning. On the one hand it means that one’s true reward in life comes from being of service to others. On the other hand, it means that the most successful bottom lines will accrue to the firms that give the best service.
  3. A practical guide to practicing the vision day in and day out. This is captured by the Rotary “ 4-Way Test of the things we think, say or do”. The test advises one to ask four questions before acting or speaking. The questions are: “(1) Is it the TRUTH? (2) Is it FAIR to all concerned? (3) Will it build GOODWILL and BETTER FRIENDSHIPS? (4) Will it be BENEFICIAL to all concerned?

Some laureates were Rotarians at one point in their lives. Others were never members. Yet the elements of Rotary culture described above come very close to describing the business cultures created by most hall of fame laureates.