The Clarkson Centre for Business Ethics, University of Toronto (CC(BE)2) is the locus of research on business ethics and corporate governance at the Joseph L. Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto. Here, we outline our Origin, the Centre’s Claims to Fame, and our New Directions.
Founded in 1988 by a pioneer in business ethics and stakeholder theory, Professor Emeritus Max Clarkson, the Centre grew from the belief that as the relationship between business and society increases in complexity, the need for organizations to manage social and ethical issues becomes critical.
Claims to Fame
In the 1980s and 1990s, the Centre, under Max Clarkson, was an instrumental leader in the development of codes of ethics and codes of conduct for many of Canada’s largest corporations. The publication, Codes of Ethics, Practice and Conduct, still serves as a valuable and practical guide for understanding and developing corporate codes.
Today, most of Canada’s and the United States’ largest corporations boast a code of ethics, and 80% of the FTSE 350 in Europe do as well. Ethics Officers and Compliance Officers abound. There is less need to develop codes, but a greater need to ensure that what the codes espouse are an integral part of operations. Integration comes from the top of an organization, from management, the CEO, and the Board of Directors.
New Directions (and Some Good Old Ones)
CC(BE)2 associates continue to teach business ethics to the management of the future: our MBA, MMPA, Executive MBA, and Global MBA program participants. We also develop and deliver specially tailored courses, such as Applied Ethics for Financial Professionals.
Because corporate life cycles are shorter than ever before, and CEO tenures are even shorter still, only Boards of Directors have the perspective, the mandate, the interest, and the potential to positively influence:
shareholder returns, while dealing with all the other stakeholders in a responsible and effective manner; and
the policies for the socially responsible behaviour of the company. The Board will seek assurance that these policies are the basis of all corporate behaviours.
It is with Boards of Directors that the new leverage lies. It is with and about Boards of Directors — and board effectiveness — that the CC(BE)2′s new research directions lead.