Today marks the start of IESE's 2-day annual International Symposium on Ethics, Business and Society, which is now in its 16th year. The event brings together experts from universities from all over the world to debate ethical principles and how they should be adopted in distinct business sectors. Participants will also address how to integrate a human-centered view into business management.
Among the participants is Rakesh Khurana of Harvard Business School; Paul H. Dembinski of the University of Fribourg and founder and director of Observatoire de la Finance in Geneva, Switzerland; and Antonio Argandoña of IESE, who was recently named one of the world's most prolific authors in the field of business ethics.
The Symposium, chaired by Prof. Domènec Melé, opened yesterday with a special Continuous Education Program session in which Stefano Zamagni (University of Bologna) and Robert G. Kennedy (University of St. Thomas) discussed the challenges laid out in the papal encyclical Caritas in Veritate.
During a session in the morning on Friday, Khurana sketched out the history of business schools. After the Second World War, when further education was free under the GI Bill, one in seven students opted for business studies. The result was a rapid and poorly regulated growth of schools with little common agreement about core content. Economics dominated, and continues to dominate, and schools have tended to produce students who see their role in business as representing the shareholders' interests and nothing else.
"The crisis has been met with a deafening silence from business leaders, which reflects on the sort of people they are," he said.
Paul H. Dembinski of the University of Fribourg said an obsession with transactions had been pushed so far that it had undermined and fractured relationships.
He said there was "no room for ethics because there was no room for sense," adding that it was not enough to address the "ethics issue" on the corporate level and that it has to be "embedded in everyday life and culture."