In his Aug. 22 opinion piece, “The Miseducation of Business,” Cole Stallone uses the case of Bill Tsai, a 2019 Stern School of Business graduate charged with insider trading, to argue that business schools like Stern are “incapable of instilling proper ethics.” While he is right to criticize insider trading and other unethical business practices, he misses the point when he argues that “the role of business schools within a university must be critically examined and ultimately questioned.” The solution to the problems Stallone identifies is not to abandon business education but rather for business schools to expand courses and programs that address ethical issues in a serious way. And that is what a number of us at Stern are doing every day.
Six years ago, I joined the Stern faculty to teach and to create the Center for Business and Human Rights, the first human rights center at a business school anywhere in the world. Our mandate is to challenge and empower business leaders to fully integrate human rights standards into their daily business operations. My colleagues and I have reported on substandard labor practices in factories producing clothing for global apparel brands in Bangladesh and Ethiopia; the exploitation of South Asian construction workers in the Gulf; and the failure of companies like Facebook, Google and Twitter to address political disinformation on their platforms. In 2016, Tensie Whelan joined the Stern faculty to create the Center for Sustainable Business. Its mission is to ensure current and future business leaders develop the knowledge and skills to embed sustainability in their core business strategies as a way of reducing risk, creating competitive advantage and developing innovative services, products and processes.
Another colleague, social psychologist Jonathan Haidt, who joined the Stern faculty in 2011, is testing and applying his cutting-edge research on moral psychology. Haidt works with economists and other social scientists to figure out how to make businesses, governments and nonprofits work more efficiently and responsibly by applying ethical systems. Each of our programs are bringing this research into the classroom, providing MBA students and undergraduate business students with ethical frameworks they can apply when they enter the business world. We have built on the foundation that Professor Bruce Buchanan created through the school’s social impact curriculum.
While Stern can always do more to promote and expand these and similar efforts, I don’t think there is a business school in the U.S. or elsewhere that is tackling these ethical questions as ambitiously or as well.
Michael Posner is a professor at the Stern School of Business, as well as the director of Stern’s Center for Business and Human Rights.
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A version of this article appeared in the Tuesday, September 3, 2019 print edition. Email the Editorial Board at [email protected]